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Islamic World News ( 6 Feb 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Why Is Iran Persecuting Followers Of The Gonabadi Sufi Order?


New Age Islam News Bureau

6 Feb 2018

Secretary-General António Guterres (second left) addresses the 2018 opening session of the General Assembly's Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe



 Why Is Iran Persecuting Followers Of The Gonabadi Sufi Order?

 Muslim Law Board to Ask Grooms for Oath against Instant Talaq

 American Islamic State Recruits Struggle with Inexperience, Culture Clash

 Hadi Urges Courts to Respect Status of Islam in Their Verdicts

 ‘Two-State’ Solution Only Way to Resolve Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: UN



 Why Is Iran Persecuting Followers Of The Gonabadi Sufi Order?

 Turkey, Vatican Agree On Jerusalem

 One of the earliest Ottoman print books preserved through cooperation

 Coalition: Iran supplied Houthis with weapons to target Bab el-Mandeb

 Iranian FM outlines 4 steps to solving crisis in Yemen



 Muslim Law Board to Ask Grooms for Oath against Instant Talaq

 Assam Madrassa Teacher’s Devotion to Swachch Bharat Gets Him National Honour

 1st time in 2 years, Pakistan intel, counter-terror experts visit India

 India, Egypt boost cooperation in the field of antiquities

 India hit list of Hindu Muslim couples taken off Facebook

 Agra: Local authorities deny permission to Muslim Tiranga Yatra after Kasganj violence

 At Muslim League Veteran E Ahamed Death Anniversary, Opposition Leaders Tear into BJP Govt

 Kill 40 Pakistanis for 4 of ours, says soldier’s widow

 Jaish terrorists attack Army camp in south Kashmir

 Don’t want to look back at the past, says Pune teen who was arrested on suspicion of terror


North America

 American Islamic State Recruits Struggle with Inexperience, Culture Clash

 Jihadist Responsible for Mall of America Stabbing Spree Entered U.S. with Foreign Relatives

 US accuses Russia of obstructing UN condemnation of gas attacks in Syria

 US 'gravely alarmed' by chemical attacks in Syria


Southeast Asia

 Hadi Urges Courts to Respect Status of Islam in Their Verdicts

 Maldives Declares State Of Emergency as Crisis Deepens

 Indonesia to Hold 'Landmark' Jihadist-Terror Survivor Meeting

 Malaysia's Islamist party PAS says only Muslims will make policy should it come to power

 China's Muslim Minority Sent To Political Education Camps Amid Allegations Of Gross Human Rights Violations

 Indonesia to hold reconciliation meetings between terror convicts and survivors

 Muslim leaders declare Marawi a 'zone of peace'



 ‘Two-State’ Solution Only Way to Resolve Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: UN

 ISIS-Supporting Teacher Showed Terrorist Propaganda Clips to Kids, Court Hears

 How Britain’s ‘Netflix for Muslims’ now plans to woo Asia

 Paris attacks suspect lambasts ‘anti-Muslim bias’

 Protesters gather outside Saudi embassy in London to condemn UK arms sales



 Boko Haram Attacks In Nigeria, Cameroon Despite ‘Defeated’ Claims

 Islamic State, al-Qaeda Support Fuels Attacks in West Africa

 Suspected Jihadists Kill 2 Soldiers in Mali

 Central African Republic: Rebel Leader Urges End to CAR Civil War


South Asia

 Islamic State Threatens Iran from 'Tora Bora' Borderlands

 25 ISIS Militants Killed In the Latest Airstrikes In Nangarhar

 Government Mulling Execution of Inmates in Kabul, Claims Taliban

 US redeploying troops to Afghanistan from Iraq: Report

 137 BNP-Jamaat activists held in two days

 Afghan force conduct raid on a key hideout of Taliban in Nangarhar



 Reopening Of Memogate Case a Political Stunt, Says Husain Haqqani

 Accusing Islamabad of Terrorism Is Heinous: Kh Asif

 Jadhav now facing trial on terrorism, sabotage charges

 Row hits MQM-P over nomination of Senate candidates

 Tensions with military have eased, says PM

 Fazl joins protesters seeking justice for Naqeebullah

 No military solution to Afghan problem: Abbasi


Arab World

 83 Killed In ‘War on Children’ Across Mideast: UN

 Free Syrian Army Turns To Turkey for Support in War against Assad

 Gov’t forces kill 6 Daesh militants in operation in northern Iraq

 Saudi says Yemen rebel ballistic missile shot down

 Reports Claim Baghdadi's Severe Illness

 Syrian Army Makes Fresh Gains in Hama Province

 Report: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad Blacklisted in Mossad's Terror List

 Houthi actions pose threat to international trade, says Arab Coalition

 83 killed in 'war on children' across Mideast in past month, says UNICEF

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Why Is Iran Persecuting Followers Of The Gonabadi Sufi Order?

5 February 2018

Iranian security forces besieged on Sunday the house of Noor Ali Tabandeh, one of the most prominent leaders of Shiite Sufism in the Iranian capital Tehran. Forces clashed with his supporters who gathered around the house to defend their leader.

Soon after, pictures and videos of the incident fired up social media sites. In fact, in the span of one week, the security forces cordoned off the house of Tabandeh twice, who has been dubbed as Hazrat al-Hajj Dr. Noorali Tabandeh Majzoub Ali Shah.

According to Majzooban Noor website, which publishes news and features about the Sufism, the purpose of encircling the House of the Shiite Sufi leader is to set up a control checkpoint near his house, especially since last Wednesday security forces attempted to build a checkpoint but failed as a result of a peaceful gathering of the Sufis who opposed the operation.

The Sufi Gonabadi Order is one of the Shiite Sufi currents in Iran. Its founder is the Iranian Sufi poet Sayyid Nurduddin Shah Nematullah Walliy al Mahani Karamani, nicknamed Shah Nimatullah Wali, who lived at the end of the eighth century and the beginning of the ninth century AH.

The continuing suppression

The first attempt of suppressing the Sufis in Giran took place in 2009 following the issuance of a statement by the Imam of the Friday’s prayer in the city of Isfahan against the Sufis, where municipal bulldozers destroyed the mausoleum of al-Darawish Nasser Ali in the cemetery of Takht-e Foulad in Isfahan. The mausoleum's belongings were also looted.

The protests then began to expand in various Iranian cities with strong Sufi Gonabadi followers’ population. In the winter of 2009, a number of Sufi Gonabadi gathered in the capital of Tehran before the Iranian Shura Council and the authorities arrested 60 of them.

The official religious establishment such as Tikaya, Husayniyat and Sufian mosques is known as Khanqah. These spiritual sites are attacked by the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij, which constitute the striking hand of religious authority in Iran which functions outside the law.

The Iranian regime holds a religious doctrine based on its own reading of Shi'ism, which calls for the acceptance of the ruling and pledging allegiance to the Wali al-Faqih who has the duty to apply the sharia. Therefore, the Sufis who reject the interference of religion in politics pose a danger to the Wilayat al-Faqih known in English as the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist.

It is noteworthy to mention that the teachings of the Sufi Gonabadi emphasizes the dangers of drug consumption and encourages its followers to work in order secure an honest living. Furthermore, the Sufis do not wear any special garment distinguishing them from the rest of society; the Sufi teaching stresses the importance of peaceful coexistence between all religions and sects.



Muslim Law Board to ask grooms for oath against instant talaq

Mohammed Wajihuddin

Feb 6, 2018

MUMBAI: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which failed to convince the Supreme Court against banning instant triple talaq last year, is all set to make it binding on Muslim men to commit in the nikahnama (Islamic marriage contract) that they will not use the practice.

Over a month after the Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, making instant triple talaq a criminal offence, the board, at its annual convention to be held between February 9 and 11+ in Hyderabad, will release a "model nikahnama"+ requiring the bridegroom to undertake that he will not divorce his wife through triple talaq.

Once such an undertaking is given, its breach will be seen as invalid according to the Shariah or Muslim personal law, the board's general secretary Maulana Wali Rahmani said.

If a man gives triple talaq despite stating in the marriage contract that he won't, his wife could challenge it in a court of law, citing the nikahnama as proof. The board's Hyderabad convention comes at a time when the Bill is still stuck in the Rajya Sabha. MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, the lone Muslim MP to oppose the bill during the LS debate, will be chairing the convention's reception committee.

Muslims back Board move on talaq

Though the AIMPLB had initially maintained that the triple talaq issue was outside the judiciary's realm, it later agreed that protection could be given to Muslim women at the time of execution of nikahnama. "Before the Lok Sabha passed the bill (on December 28 last year), we had told the Supreme Court we would insert this provision in the nikahnama," Rahmani said.

He added that a model nikahnama which discouraged men from using triple talaq as a form to divorce was already in place, but the new undertaking would help stop the practice altogether.

The apex court struck down instant triple talaq on August 22, 2017, but several cases of the practice being still in use have surfaced after that.

The board's move is being welcomed within the Muslim community. "This will be a wonderful step towards fulfilling a long-standing demand of women and many educated, enlightened men in the community. It is the need of the hour," said Naved Hamid, president of All India Muslim Majlise Mushawarat, an umbrella body of more than 40 Muslim organisations.

The board's executive member Maulana Athar Ali said triple talaq cases would reduce substantially once the model nikahnama is released. "The majority in the community follow Shariah rules on matrimonial issues," he said.



American Islamic State Recruits Struggle with Inexperience, Culture Clash

06th February 2018

WASHINGTON: US recruits to the Islamic State group struggle more than their European counterparts, lacking support networks and field experience and being assigned to menial jobs, a report on American jihadists said Monday.

The study by the George Washington University Program on Extremism said that online social networks were more essential to Americans in reaching Syria and Iraq, as they often had limited personal connections that could help them reach the battlefield.

Once there a number found disappointment in an unfamiliar terrain and faced significant culture clashes; many, if they stayed alive, soon sought to return to the United States despite facing near-certain imprisonment.

"For many of the returnees, life in jihadist-held territory did not live up to their expectations," said the study entitled "The Travelers".

"Living conditions were much harsher than they saw in the online magazines and videos, and the promises of companionship and camaraderie were rarely fulfilled," the study said.

"Instead, cultural clashes, bitter infighting and suspicion among recruits and leadership abounded. Many of the Americans had little to no combat experience and were assigned duties such as cleaning safehouses, cooking, and caring for the sick and injured."

- Low number of American 'foreign fighters' -

The study examines the experience of 64 of the estimated 300 Americans who made their way to the Islamic State fight, or in some cases to join other jihadist groups like Jahbat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate.

That is a fraction of the 5,000-6,000 who travelled from Europe to join the fight, including 900 from France and 750 from Britain.

The report draws on court documents, interviews, and a huge database of online postings and a catalogue of one million tweets by the jihadists.

It finds few threads tying the US jihadists together: they had disparate backgrounds, came from many states, and emerged from a generally wealthier and better-integrated Muslim community, compared to their counterparts in Europe.

Of the 64, the average age was 27, 89 percent were men, and 70 percent were US citizens or permanent residents. At least 22 died in Syria and 12 returned on their own or under arrest. The whereabouts of the rest aren't known, and some could also be dead.

The authors found three types of joiners: "pioneers", early, strongly self-motived and knowledgeable enlistees in the IS fight; "networked travelers" with some family and friends providing support; and "loners" enabled by online communications.

One reason for the low number of American "foreign fighters," the study says, is that US law makes it easier for police to intervene early, on the grounds of a hopeful jihadist's professed support for an outlawed extremist group.

Another is the difficulty of personal networking, compared to Europe. There was one "cell" in heavily Muslim Minnesota, where some 15 personally connected Americans tried to join IS.

Elsewhere, they struggle with often just one friend or relative helping out, depending more on guidance from IS recruiters online.

- Tired of running errands -

Once in Syria, some Americans succeeded in the IS hierarchy, especially so-called pioneers.

More were like Mohamad Jamal Khweis, who was lured mostly online and, once there, "grew tired of running errands and became frustrated that he was not receiving any military training." Khweis eventually gave up and escaped back to the US, where he was jailed for 20 years.

The authors of the study say the lack of an archetype for an Islamic state recruit continues to confound counter-extremism efforts.

"If history is a guide, there will be another large-scale jihadist mobilization in the future. The US must develop a proactive and comprehensive strategy to address jihadist travel," the said.



Hadi urges courts to respect status of Islam in their verdicts

February 6, 2018

PETALING JAYA: PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang today urged the judiciary to take into account the status of Islam in Malaysia, in an apparent disagreement with the Federal Court’s recent decision to set aside the unilateral conversion of M Indira Gandhi’s three children by her convert ex-husband, Muhammad Riduan Abdullah.

Hadi also urged the government to rein in what he called fanatics who were trying to exploit the situation ahead of the general election.

“The government must be firm towards religious fanatics and those who are more interested in playing racial politics for the coming election to the point where they are willing to challenge the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) who is not even contesting in the election.

“They do not care about wisdom in humanity nor do they care about laws which respect all parties,” he said.

Quoting a verse from the Quran, Hadi pointed out that Islam guaranteed that Muslims were still responsible for taking care of their parents even if they were non-Muslim.

“From my understanding, no other holy texts from other religions recognise this concept apart from Islam. Therefore, non-Muslims should not worry about family ties being broken when a family member embraces Islam.”

In its landmark ruling last month, the Federal Court decreed that the civil courts have jurisdiction to hear cases when aggrieved parties question conversion to Islam.

This was one of the key pronouncements made as the apex court allowed kindergarten teacher Indira’s appeal over the conversion of her three children by her ex-husband in 2009.

The five-man bench was chaired by Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, and included justices Richard Malanjun, Zainun Ali, Abu Samah Nordin and Ramly Ali.

Following this ruling, the certificates of conversion issued by the Perak Registrar of Muallafs on Tevi Darshiny, Karan Dinesh and Prasana Diksa are now null and void.



‘Two-state’ solution only way to resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict: UN

Feb 6, 2018

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres has emphasized that the so-called two-state solution is the sole way out of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning that the “negative trends” unfolding in the region could endanger the bid.

“There is no Plan B. A two-state solution is the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and secure a sustainable solution to the conflict,” Guterres told a meeting of a UN committee on Palestinian rights in New York on Monday.

He hailed efforts made by the international community to encourage a negotiated process to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the UN support for the so-called two-state solution.

“The General Assembly has reaffirmed the two-state solution through the establishment of a Palestinian State as the only way to achieve stability, peace, prosperity and development in the region,” he added.

“Negative trends on the ground have the potential to create an irreversible one-state reality that is incompatible with realizing the legitimate national, historic and democratic aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians,” Guterres said, apparently referring to US President Donald Trump’s hostile measures against the Palestinians.

Last December, Trump declared that Washington was recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and planning to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.

The contentious move, which drew global warnings and condemntations, led President Mahmoud Abbas to formally declare that Palestinians would no longer accept the US as a mediator to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Washington is “completely biased” towards Tel Aviv.

In another hostile measure against the Palestinians, the Trump administration said in January that it would withhold $65 million of a $125 million aid installment to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Trump’s first pro-Israel policy shift on the conflict took place in February 2017, when he dropped a two-decades old US commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of the so-called two-state solution.

Guterres further said he was “extremely concerned that the latest shortfall in UNRWA’s funding will gravely impair the agency’s ability to deliver on its mandate and preserve critical services such as education and health care for Palestine Refugees.”

He further censured Israel’s “illegal” settlement activities in the occupied lands, saying the construction and expansion of settler units “is a major obstacle to peace and it must be halted and reversed.”

The UN chief also raised alarm over the “dire” humanitarian and economic situation in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

Abbas, Johnson talk over phone

Separately on Monday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas discussed recent political developments and the Middle East conflict over phone.

During the conversation, Johnson affirmed the UK’s commitment to the so-called two-state solution, the Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.

Following the call, the top British diplomat took to Twitter to express his sanctification with the conversation.

The Palestinian president, for his part, any new round of talks should be based on a multilateral international mechanism, international law and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds during the Six-Day War in 1967. It later annexed East Jerusalem al-Quds in a move not recognized by the international community.

Palestinians want the resolution of the conflict with Tel Aviv based on the so-called two-state solution along pre-1967 boundaries.

However, the Israeli officials insist on maintaining the occupation of the Palestinian territories.





Turkey, Vatican agree on Jerusalem

Feb 6, 2018

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Pope Francis at the Vatican and discussed the status of Jerusalem at length. This is history in the making. It is the first ever visit by a Turkish head of state to the Vatican after Turkey and the Holy See established diplomatic relations in 1960. President Celal Bayar visited the Vatican in 1959 and opened the way for the establishment of these relations.

Erdoğan spearheaded the Islamic world's action at the United Nations General Assembly to oppose the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that the U.S. will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to this ancient city. The move also received support from the pope, the spiritual leader of Catholics around the globe.

The Vatican says Jerusalem, which is a major holy city for the Muslims, Christians and Jews, should be granted a special status where people of all religions can worship freely. Thus, it is opposed to the city becoming exclusively a Jewish entity where Muslims and Christians are left to the whims of the Jews.

Turkey agrees with the Vatican and says Jerusalem could be the joint capital of Israel and Palestine.

But Jerusalem was not the only issue on the agenda. Erdoğan explained the reasons why Turkey had to launch Operation Olive Branch in the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin just across the Turkish border. Ankara hopes to secure the support of the Vatican on Afrin with the explanation that it is not invading another country, but is rather actively striving to cleanse the area of terrorists and allow suffering Syrian civilians to go back to their homes. Turkey evicted Daesh terrorists of from its border in Operation Euphrates Shield and turned the region into a safe haven for Syrians. It aims to do the same in Afrin.

Besides this, the Vatican had lauded Turkey's efforts to end the massacre of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The Vatican had also applauded Turkey for the way took in 3,5 million Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country for the past six years and has spent $30 billion on them.

Erdoğan discussed the plight of the Christians minorities in the Middle East and promised to mobilize Turkish support to help them in every possible way, just as the Ottomans did in their 600-year history.

This of course brought the president to the issue of the rising tide of Islamophobia in the West. He asked the pontiff to help Muslims and stand up to this situation, which could turn into a disaster in most areas of Western Europe. The problem that started as xenophobia has mushroomed into enmity toward all Muslims, especially in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and France. The Vatican has also drawn attention to the problem, but Turkey wants a concerted and continuous international effort to fight Islamophobia.

Erdoğan found an attentive ear at the Vatican. Both Turkey and the Vatican under Pope Francis have been separately working to support oppressed people and the needy around the world. The Vatican has massive moral influence among Catholics in addition to financial resources. Turkey is a major player in the Islamic world with much clout. Now they can cooperate and join forces in the mission to help the oppressed.



One of the earliest Ottoman print books preserved through cooperation

Feb 6, 2018

The Turkish Cultural Foundation (TCF) has recently established a new partnership with the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland.

The partnership will ensure the preservation of one of the earliest printed books in Ottoman, "Kitab-ı Cihannüma" (The Book of Cihannüma, 1732), written by Ottoman scholar Kâtip Çelebi and printed by İbrahim Müteferrika.

The Chester Beatty Library is a museum and library that houses the world-class collection of Islamic, East Asian and European art assembled by American collector Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.

Kâtip Çelebi is the pen name of Mustafa bin Abdullah (1609-1657), also later known as Haji Khalifa, who was an Ottoman historian and geographer and is regarded as one of the most productive authors of non-religious, scientific literature in the 17th-century Ottoman Empire. He began writing "Kitab-ı Cihannüma" in 1654, expanding on it over the years but unable to complete a second edition due to his untimely death.

İbrahim Müteferrika (c.1674-1745), who printed the Katip Çelebi's work, played a special role in the story of printing in the Islamic world. A Hungarian, whose early life remains a mystery, Müteferrika became a senior figure at the imperial Ottoman court. Today he is remembered as the founder of the first official Ottoman printing house in Turkey. In 1727 he secured an edict from Sultan Ahmed III permitting him to print works of a non-religious nature. Subsequently, between 1729 and 1742 his press published 17 books, of which the Chester Beatty Library holds 13.

Published in 1732 in Istanbul, the Chester Beatty Library's rare and complete copy of the "Cihannüma" has survived with all of its original 13 astronomical and 26 geographical maps intact. The ambitious text summarized Ottoman geographical knowledge of the time and is one of the earliest books printed in Turkish.

Due to the importance of this volume, it was included in a recent Chester Beatty publication "Director's Choice," at which time it was apparent that the book required extensive conservation and the library approached the Turkish Cultural Foundation for support.

The book was tightly bound in an unseemly 19th-century binding that placed a strain on the pages each time the volume was opened. Over the centuries, with repeated use, the green copper-based pigment used to frame the printed maps had gradually burned through the paper, causing most of the folios to split along this line. The support provided by the Turkish Cultural Foundation will enable the conservators at the Chester Beatty to re-sew the carefully conserved pages, reinforce the structure of the book and rebind the volume in an Islamic-style binding that will allow the volume to be handled and displayed safely.

"We are delighted to partner with the Turkish Cultural Foundation on this project. This is one of the most impressive early printed books in the collection and the TCF's support of the conservation treatment will enable us to put the "Cihannüma" on display, playing an important role in deepening the understanding and appreciation of Turkish cultural heritage in Ireland," Fionnuala Croke, director of Chester Beatty Library said.

Full report at:



Coalition: Iran supplied Houthis with weapons to target Bab el-Mandeb

5 February 2018

The spokesman for the Arab Coalition in Yemen confirmed at a press conference in Riyadh on Monday that humanitarian aid is still entering Yemen through all entry ports, also revealing that Iran has supplied Houthi militias with weapons to target the international shipping in Bab al-Mandeb strait.

Colonel Turki al-Malki said that Houthi militias target the Hodeidah port with boat filled with bombs, which is a serious threat to shipping and world trade, stressing that there is an international understanding of these threats.

He pointed out that the militias have fired a total of 95 ballistic missiles until now and that coalition forces have thwarted and destroyed all of them. He highlighted that Houthi militias threatened many Yemeni tribes in the past few weeks.

He added that food and medical aid trucks have reached more than 400,000 Yemenis so far from Saudi Arabia.

“We have found a consent from all sides in Aden to restore stability to the temporary capital,” said al-Malki.

Full report at:



Iranian FM outlines 4 steps to solving crisis in Yemen

Feb 6, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that four steps must be taken to solve the crisis in Yemen.

"From the first day of the crisis in Yemen, Iran announced that it has a four-step solution: An immediate ceasefire, humanitarian aid, intra-Yemeni talks and a inclusive government," said Zarif in a televised interview on Monday.

"What Saudi Arabia did in Yemen has had no result apart from creating anger towards the kingdom and killing children," he added.

On January 28, separatists backed by the UAE launched an assault in Aden, taking control of a number of sites and military camps run by forces loyal to Yemen's former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi following intense clashes. They swiftly seized the presidential palace in the southern port city.

Zarif stressed that such foreign-backed fighting is tearing the country apart.

At least 13,600 people have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen in 2015. Much of the country's infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

The Saudi-led war has also triggered a deadly cholera epidemic across Yemen.

Full report at:





Assam Madrassa teacher’s devotion to Swachch Bharat gets him national honour

February 5, 2018

GUWAHATI : “You Are the Solution Summit” organised by the Global Interfaith Wash Alliance India held at Rishikesh in Uttarakhand in June 2017 saw the convergence of spiritual leaders from across the country. A hitherto unheard-of Madrassa teacher from Assam, Mufti Nashihur Rahman, represented the Muslims of the country at the Summit, sharing the dais with Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji Muniji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati from the Hindu faith, Acharya Roopchandra Muniji from the Jain faith, and Jathedar Patna Saheb Giani Iqbal Singhji along with Kiranjot Kaur from the Sikh faith. It was his dedication to the cause of a Swachch Bharat as envisioned by Prime Minister Modi that had catapulted Rahman to the national scene of cleanliness and care for the environment. He was honoured with the special Ganga Award for spreading the message of Swachhta and Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) amongst his community and congregations. Rahman had received the award from the hands of the Governor of Uttarakhand, Dr Krishna Kant Paul.

Rahman was born in 1983 at No 1 Thekerabari village of Darrang District in Assam and had his elementary education at the village primary school. Then he studied in three different madrassas in the State until he went to Darul Ulum Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, one of the most renowned Islamic theological institutions in the world. In a stay spanning from 2002 to 2007, he completed his education there, then taught in a madrassa in Deoband for a year and came back to Assam to join as a teacher at Madinatul Ulum Madrassa in Dalgaon, Assam. To fulfil the aspirations of his native area, he returned to Mangaldai and took over the post of the principal of the girls’ madrassa there in 2010.

The Madrassa in Mangaldai caters exclusively to girls and about 150 of them are now engaged at different stages of the seven-year course that will lead them to the level of “Title” which is equivalent to a Higher Secondary course of schools administered by the State Board. A girl is admitted to the Madrassa only after she has passed class VII or more from a public or private school.

The Madrassa at Mangaldai hosts a religious meet called the “Jalsa-e-Siratunnabi” every year in which the teachings of the Quran and that of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) are propagated before the public. But in recent years, Rahman has ensured that concern for cleanliness and the environment also find place in the agenda of the congregation. The next Jalsa is scheduled to be held on February 9, 2018 and the morning’s session is planned to begin with a tree plantation programme in which Ashok Kumar Barman, Deputy Commissioner, Mangaldai is expected to be the chief guest. Thereafter the girls of the Madrassa will lead a cleanliness drive across the town that would culminate at the Civil Hospital Complex in the District Headquarter town.

Talking on the subject of health and hygiene, Rahman recalls his visit a few months ago to nearby No 4 Nangli Char, a habitat on one of the islands on the Brahmaputra, to enquire about the welfare of one of his students who was ill and had gone back to the village. Rahman had to stay overnight and in the morning, he asked the residents to show him a lavatory where he could respond to the call of nature. The villagers had none and informed him that they had always defecated in the open. Rahman asked them to bring a spade, a few bamboo poles, and some thatch. In a while he had constructed a toilet and that changed the history of sanitation in the village.

In recent months, the Mufti and his associates have used all kinds of forums including preaching in mosques for creating public awareness about health, hygiene, and sanitation. His team often fans out to the nearby villages to verify if the people there have made proper use of Government funds made available to them for construction of toilets and if they have constructed toilets, whether the upkeep is up to the mark or not. Rahman is very appreciative of the help and support he and his team have been receiving from the local MLA, Guru Jyoti Das, in all endeavours for making people more conscious about a clean and green environment towards fulfilling the dream of a Swachch Bharat.

Nowadays, Rahman is often invited by different institutions and NGOs to visit their areas and share the story of his sanitation mission. The UNICEF had invited him to take part in a discourse in Guwahati recently wherein spiritual leaders from across India along with Union and State ministers had taken part to deliberate on sanitation needs of the society. Rahman was also asked to deliberate at an open session at the Veterinary Grounds in Khanapara, Guwahati where Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was present.

Rahman’s latest dream projects include establishment of a “Swachch Bharat Garden”, the first of its kind in India, within the Madrassa complex touching the National Highway No 15 that connects Arunachal Pradesh with Assam. He is confident that the Government and civil society will come forward to help and support this project as it would send a widespread message in favour of cleanliness, sanitation, hygiene and a healthy environment for our communities.

As things stand today, Rahman and his girls’ madrassa are sure to become the epicentre for a positive revolution that can transform the mindset of the people in general and the rural Muslim community in particular towards their health, hygiene, and sanitation needs. The ‘Swachchata Maulana’ has emerged as a true brand ambassador of the Swachcha Bharat Mission in the interior areas of Assam.



1st time in 2 years, Pakistan intel, counter-terror experts visit India

by Shubhajit Roy

February 6, 2018

Despite the chill in diplomatic ties between India and Pakistan, Islamabad sent a four-member team of counter-terrorism and intelligence specialists last week to attend a multilateral meeting in New Delhi recently, The Indian Express has learnt.

The security and intelligence establishments of the two countries have been at loggerheads in recent years, especially after the terrorist attacks in Pathankot and Uri, and more recently over the death sentence of former Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is in Pakistani jail.

The Pakistani officials, including a colonel from the country’s army, were hosted by deputy NSA Rajinder Khanna — a former chief of R&AW, India’s external agency — for a dinner reception, along with other delegates, sources said.

The Pakistan delegation comprised Ahmad Farooq, director general (counter-terrorism) in Pakistan’s foreign ministry; Farhan Zahid, director, National Counter Terrorism Authority ; Col Sajjad Hussein, joint secretary (headquarters); and Adeel Ahmed Khan, director, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

They were in Delhi from January 31 to February 2, and the meeting was deliberately kept under wraps at the request of the visiting delegates, sources said.

The quiet meeting on “counter-terrorism” and “security cooperation”, under the umbrella of SCO, was held in Delhi. Sources said delegates from Pakistan, China, Russia among other countries in the grouping also went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

There was “no bilateral meeting” between Indian and Pakistani officials, but the discussions at the grouping were of “substantive nature”, sources said.

“The discussions were largely focused on violent extremism and radicalisation — two of key concerns for the Central Asian countries, along with China and Russia,” a source said. “Since India and Pakistan have just entered the grouping, their concerns were not reflected… Chinese and Russian interlocutors are very clear on the fact that they do not want the bilateral issues between India and Pakistan to spill over on SCO discussions.”

Full report at:



India, Egypt boost cooperation in the field of antiquities

Feb 05, 2018

The cooperation between India and Egypt in the field of antiquities will receive a boost as an Egyptian archaeologist is set travel to India to advice on the preservation of Egyptian mummies located in different Indian museums, India’s ambassador to Egypt Sanjay Bhattacharyya has said.

Mummies conservation expert Rania Ahmed will be travelling to India by next month to give advice on preservation of six Egyptian mummies, which are located in different Indian museums, including the Indian Museum in Kolkata and museums in Jaipur, Maharashtra and other.

“We are very happy that we have finally concluded the discussion for the travel of an Egyptian archaeologist to travel to India to look after and advice us on conversation and preservation of six Egyptian mummies that are in different museums in India,” Ambassador Bhattacharyya told PTI.

“We had been very concerned for a long time about how to take care of these beautiful Egyptian objects and now with the help of Minister Khaled el-Anani, we have and agreement that an Egyptian expert will be travelling to India to do this, which is big development for us,” Bhattacharyya added.

The Ambassador also inaugurated a photography exhibition of the antiquity collection of the Museum of Islamic Arts entitled “Lens” at the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) on Sunday.

The exhibition is a result of a photography competition organised by The Museum of Islamic Art in cooperation with Adasa Club in Alexandria.

More than 280 photographers participated in the competition, out of which the photos of 39 artists were selected for the exhibition.

“This cooperation with the Museum of Islamic Art is very special for the Indian Embassy. We have a population of 180 million Muslims in India who also have their art forms and the Museum of Islamic Arts has a few of these objects most particularly a couple of beautiful paintings from the Mogul period,” he said.

Egypt’s Museum of Islamic Art is home to one of the world’s most important collections of Islamic artifacts.

It was first opened in 1903, and was closed in January 2014 after a bomb attack on the Cairo police directorate across the street which severely damaged its facade and dozens of exhibits.

The Museum houses artifacts charting more than 1,300 years of Muslim civilisation in Egypt and includes pieces from throughout the Muslim world.

Mohamed Abdel-Latif, the assistant minister of antiquities and head of Islamic and Coptic antiquity sector in the ministry of antiquities said during the opening of the exhibition that the Museum of Islamic Art contains Islamic antiquities from India like paintings from the Mogul era, wooden boxes and antiques made of stone.

“Perhaps this exhibition will be a start for a cultural cooperation in organising temporary exhibitions for antiquity which confirms the deep cultural relation between India and Egypt and build more cultural, artistic and scientific bridges between the two countries,” Abdel-Latif said.

The exhibition shows 64 photos which features the glimpses of artworks in different stages of Islamic civilisation in different parts of the world.

Full report at:



India hit list of Hindu Muslim couples taken off Facebook

Feb 6, 2018

A Facebook page calling for violence against 102 Muslim men who are allegedly in relationships with Hindu women has been taken down.

The page, which asks Hindus to "track and hunt the boys on the list", prompted outrage online.

The list also included links to the Facebook profiles of those named, raising concerns about their safety.

Although the page is named "Hindutva Varta" (Hindutva Talk), no Hindu right-wing group has owned up to it yet.

The list appeared on social media feeds over the weekend after a Twitter user called attention to it. "Hindu terrorists publish a long list of inter-community marriages and urge Hindus to kill the husbands of these women," the tweet read.

While the page is no longer available, Indian website Alt News has archived a few of the posts, including the list but has blurred the names of the couples. All of the archived posts encourage violence against instances of so-called "love jihad".

The term has been popularised by radical Hindu fringe groups who accuse Muslim men of participating in a conspiracy to turn Hindu women from their religion by seducing them.

"It's alarming that such a list exists in the first place," Pratik Sinha, cofounder of Alt News, told the BBC. "But to think that someone has spent their time tracking down the names of people in such relationships is equally troubling."

The list links to individual Facebook profiles of 102 different Muslim men and Hindu women. The list seems to have been compiled based on the "relationship status" listed by these individuals on Facebook.

This is not the first time such a list has been circulated online, according to Mr Sinha, who said it was spotted in November 2017 on another right-wing page called "Justice for Hindus". But it was not accompanied by a call for violence then.

"This is how social media propaganda gets created, as lists like this get circulated from one page to another," he added.

One previous post on the same page includes a call to Hindu parents to teach their daughters to use guns so they can protect themselves against "love jihad". In another post, a video shows a Muslim man being violently attacked by a group of men.

Marriages between Hindus and Muslims have long attracted censure in conservative Indian families, but the attachment of a deeper, sinister motive to them is a recent phenomenon. In recent years, they are increasingly being labelled as examples of alleged "love jihad".

A man was hacked to death over an alleged inter-faith relationship, and a Hindu woman killed herself after she was bullied on WhatsApp for having a friendship with a Muslim man.

Full report at:



Agra: Local authorities deny permission to Muslim Tiranga Yatra after Kasganj violence

February 5, 2018

When the tricolor flies over the historical and government buildings of India, it fills the heart of every Indian with pride.

But, these days some anti-national elements are trying to divide the tricolor between Hindus and Muslims.

The latest example of this widening divide between the two communities was witnessed when a man was killed during a 'Tiranga Yatra' in Uttar Pradesh's Kasganj.

Property worth crores was burnt in the ensuing violence over the tricolor, which could not be called a patriotic act, even if it was in the name of protecting the 'honor of the national flag'.

A large group of Muslims chose to display their patriotism in Agra by taking out a 'Tiranga Yatra' of their own, but the administration did not allow the Yatra to be taken out and took the memorandum at the Yatra's starting point at Shaheed Smarak in the city.

The VHP too had announced a similar Yatra in Agra and rest of the cities in the Braj region, but they were not allowed in view of the tense situation in the region following the Kasganj violence.

Talking to India Today, Shabana Khandelwal, the organiser of the Muslim Tiranga Yatra said that Agra has been the perfect example of communal harmony to the rest of the country since Independence and by this Tiranga Yatra, the Muslims of Agra wanted to prove that the Muslims of India are as patriotic as the Hindus and people of other faiths who live in this country.

However, the local administration did not allow the Yatra to be taken out and a symbolic Yatra was organised at the Shaheed Smarak, where the representatives of the Chief Minister of UP were given a memorandum demanding strict action against whoever was responsible for the violence in Kasganj.

Mufti Mudassar Ali Qadri, a prominent Muslim cleric from Agra, said that the foremost teaching of Islam is to love our motherland and everyone who follows Islam, loves his motherland as he loves his religion. He said that those who blame Muslims for being unpatriotic just because they do not sing Vande Mataram or do Yoga, do not understand Islam at all. There are some things that are not allowed in Islam and instead of finding a workaround to that, when the majority population tries to impose its own will on the minority, that is when the friction arises.

Meanwhile, addressing a seminar on this issue, Hindustani Biradari Vice-Chairman Vishal Sharma said that it was very shameful that the youth of India, who should be protecting the sanctity of the national symbols through patriotic acts, is actually playing in the hands of communal elements who are trying to stoke the fire of communalism by painting the entire Muslim community in unpatriotic colors.

He said that the tricolor's honor could not be saved by burning the property of a community that has had an equal role in wresting the independence of India from British hands. Taking out 'Tiranga Yatras' through the city was a way to show patriotism, but combining the tricolor with a 'Hindu identity' was the biggest wrong that could be done to the Muslim community, as this made the entire community look unpatriotic.

Sharma said that these days, whenever a Muslim criticises the policies of the current government, he is asked to go to Pakistan, which is a dishonor to the memory of those Muslims who chose to live in a pluralistic society that India had promised to become, instead of going to Pakistan which had founded itself on religious grounds.

Full report at:



At Muslim League Veteran E Ahamed Death Anniversary, Opposition Leaders Tear into BJP Govt

February 6, 2018

At a function to mark the first death anniversary of Muslim League veteran E Ahamed, opposition leaders from various parties came together and almost all of them tore into the BJP government, stating that India’s secular character and Constitution is under grave danger under its watch.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi refrained from making political remarks. He said Ahamed was an “institution” who transcended the word politician and became a guide to younger politicians.

“In politics you generally meet two types of people — those for whom politics is all about themselves, about improving their image, about the perception about them…and then are there are those whom everything is about other people…I think Ahamed was one of those people,” he said.

The others made scathing attacks on the government. While National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said the Constitution is under threat, CPM Politburo member Mohd Salim said the basic pillars of India’s constitutional scheme of things are under attack. “India cannot remain democratic if it does not remain a secular state and vice versa. The basic question of choice, freedom of choice that is being attacked…,” Salim said. .

Full report at:



Kill 40 Pakistanis for 4 of ours, says soldier’s widow

Feb 6, 2018

BHOPAL: "Char ke liye chalis maro (kill 40 Pakistani soldiers to avenge the four martyrs)," screams Rachna, wife of Rifleman Ram Awtar Lodhi, who was killed along with Captain Kundu and two others in a ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops along the LoC in Bhimber Gali sector of Rajouri district on Sunday afternoon.

Rifleman Lodhi hailed from Baroa village in Gwalior district, which was preparing to give the martyr a warrior's homecoming on Monday evening. "We have lost everything, but I am proud of his sacrifice. I am proud that he died for the country at the border. I would like to appeal to PM Modi to avenge the cowardly attack by Pakistan. Mere assurance won't work. I want 40 Pakistanis to die for four of ours," said Rachna, cradling their threemonth-old daughter. Their elder son, five-year-old Divyansh, is in shock.

The 28-year-old soldier had last come home for the birth of their daughter. Four years into the Army, Lodhi was an inspiration for youngsters in the village. His mother, brothers and neighbours are inconsolable.

His body reached IAF's Maharajpura airbase on Monday evening where it was received by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who announced Rs 1 crore for the family, besides a house in Gwalior, a government job for a relative and financial support for the children's education.

Full report at:



Jaish terrorists attack Army camp in south Kashmir

M Saleem Pandit

Feb 6, 2018

JAMMU: A day after four Army personnel, including a captain, were killed in ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces, an Army camp came under attack by terrorists at Kakpora area of South Kashmir's Pulwama district on Monday night.

Sources said the terrorists attacked the Rashtriya Rifles camp in Kakpora with a grenade around 8.30pm. In retaliation, Army personnel fired several rounds. No casualty was reported from the Army side.

Hunt on to nab terrorists who attacked Army camp

Pulwama SSP Mohd Aslam Choudhary told TOI, "Terrorists attacked the RR camp with a grenade on Monday night. The entire area has been cordoned off and searches have been launched to nab the terrorists."

Terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement, JeM spokesman Hassan Shah claimed that the outfit carried out the attack on the RR camp at Kakapora in Pulwama in south Kashmir by firing rockets, causing heavy damage to the Army.

Earlier in the day, five overground workers (OVG) associated with JeM were arrested and confessed to have carried out recent grenade attacks in Pampore and Khrew areas of Awantipora.

Full report at:



Don’t want to look back at the past, says Pune teen who was arrested on suspicion of terror

by Sushant Kulkarni

February 6, 2018

Sadiya Shaikh, the 18-year-old girl from Pune who was arrested on January 26 over suspicion that she was planning to carry out a suicide attack in Kashmir, has said that she doesn’t “want to look back at her past,” and only wanted to continue her education.  Jammu and Kashmir Police had arrested Shaikh and one more person after they received intelligence inputs about a girl from Pune who was “planning to carry out a suicide bomb attack near or inside the Republic Day Parade venue” in the Valley. She was later released due to lack of evidence.

In a press conference in Pune on Monday, Shaikh said she had gone to Jammu and Kashmir to secure admission in a nursing course at a local college.

“After I went to Jammu and Kashmir, there were reports that a girl from Pune may try to carry out a suicide bomb attack. After these reports, Pune Police contacted my family which, in turn, told me to either come back to Pune or speak to police on video call… but you know that Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir are shut down around January 26… I could not speak to the police. I tried to get in touch with the principal of the college where I was planning to get admission, but could not contact him. So, I was thinking about what to do. I took a taxi to go to Srinagar… there is a place called Avantipora on the way, where there was a check point. They stopped the car and started asking me questions,” said Shaikh.

“I told people at the check-point that I was Sadiya from Pune, and a news was being circulated that Sadiya was going to do this. They frisked me and checked my bags. After they didn’t find anything, they took me to a police station. They took my cell phone, asked for the password, unlocked it and then they started their investigation. I was taken to women’s police station, where many agencies came to me and questioned me. I told them about my admission. After they did not find anything, they let me go,” she added.

When asked about reports that she had visited Jammu and Kashmir in July 2017, Sadiya said, “Whatever happened to me in the last few days, it was an effect of my past on my future. So, I do not want to look back at the past. I want to talk about my present and my future. I want to continue my education.”

In December 2015, following inputs that some youth from Pune were getting attracted to the Islamic State’s propaganda on social media, the Pune unit of the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) had identified Sadiya, who was 16 at the time, as one of them. She was found to be “mentally prepared” to go to Syria to join the Islamic State after being influenced by online operatives of the terrorist organisation. The ATS had then provided counselling to her.

When asked about the events in 2015, Sadiya said, “In 2015, I got influenced by IS ideology and I was in online contact with some people and some groups… for that, I was too active on Facebook. After that, ATS came to me and questioned me. They arranged a deradicalisation session with a local Maulana. They were successful… I continued my college, I was in Class 12 at the time.”

Full report at:



North America


Jihadist Responsible for Mall of America Stabbing Spree Entered U.S. with Foreign Relatives

5 Feb 2018

A jihadist who pleaded guilty to going on a stabbing spree at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota entered the U.S. as a legal immigrant with foreign relatives.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed to Breitbart News in a statement that 20-year-old Mahad Abdiaziz Adbiraham entered the U.S. as a “derivative of a relative,” which is immigration lingo used to describe a foreign-born resident who came to the country either as the immediate child or spouse of a legal immigrant.

Adbiraham, according to KSTP, pleaded guilty last week to stabbing two men in a Macy’s dressing room at the Mall of America, an attack that the jihadist admitted in court was inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS).

In a statement to the courtroom, Adbiraham said the attack was a “call for jihad by the Chief of Believer, Abu-bakr Al-baghdadi, may Allah protect him, and by the Mujahiden of the Islamic State,” adding: “I understand that the two men I stabbed know and have explained the reason for my attack, and I am here reaffirming that it was indeed an act of Jihad in the way of Allah.”

The Mall of America jihadist also threatened Americans, saying in the statement that the country would not be considered safe until its “war with Islam” ended.

The jihadist attack by the foreign-born resident is just the last ISIS-inspired attack by a legal immigrant to the U.S.

Last year, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 25, who entered the U.S. from Somalia and obtained citizenship, trained with a terrorist organization in Syria, plotting to return to the U.S. to carry out the attack, as Breitbart News reported.

Additionally, Ahmed Amin El-Mofty, a 51-year-old from Egypt, who allegedly targeted Pennsylvania police officers in December 2017 in a terrorist attack, as Breitbart News reported, entered the U.S. as a foreign relative of a naturalized citizen.

Accused suicide-bomber Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladesh national, who allegedly attempted to detonate his bomb in New York City in an ISIS-inspired attack, also arrived in the U.S. as a foreign relative of a naturalized citizen.

In November 2017, Uzbek national 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov allegedly murdered at least eight individuals in an ISIS-inspired attack in New York City. Saipov arrived in the U.S. in 2010 through the Diversity Visa Lottery, whereby 50,000 random foreign nationals are imported to the country every year through a lottery system.

Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the U.S., with the vast majority of those foreign nationals coming to the country through the refugee resettlement program. There are about 74,000 residents who speak Somali in Minnesota, with as many as 80,000 Somalis living in the state.



US accuses Russia of obstructing UN condemnation of gas attacks in Syria

Feb 5, 2018

US Ambassador Nikki Haley to the United Nations has accused Russia of obstructing the adoption of a UN Security Council condemnation of alleged chlorine gas attacks in Syria.

Haley told the Security Council on Monday that there was "obvious evidence from dozens of victims" to corroborate the chlorine attacks in Eastern Ghouta.

"Now we have reports that the Assad regime has used chlorine gas against its people multiple times in recent weeks, including just yesterday," Haley said, referring to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States has suggested a draft statement denouncing the use of chemical gases as a weapon but Russia called for the delay of its adoption, according to diplomats.

"Russia has delayed the adoption of this statement - a simple condemnation of Syrian children being suffocated by chlorine gas," she said.

This is despite the fact that US Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Friday that the United States has no evidence to confirm reports that the Syrian government used the chemical nerve agent of sarin against its civilians.

Mattis said that Washington was “concerned” about the use of sarin in Syria but could not confirm reports from NGOs and militant groups regarding the issue.

"We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use... I don't have the evidence, what I am saying is, that other groups on the ground … have said that sarin has been used, so we are looking for evidence," the Pentagon chief said.

Sarin is a colorless and tasteless toxin that can cause respiratory failure leading to death.

Accusing the Assad government of using chemical weapons against civilians, the US launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base last April after a sarin gas attack on Khan Shaykhun in Idlib Province claimed at least 80 lives.

According to AFP, the US-proposed draft statement condemns "in the strongest terms" the alleged February 1 chlorine attack in the al-Malab neighborhood of the town of Douma.

This comes as senior US officials claimed President Donald Trump is set to launch a military action if necessary against the Syrian government which they say is possibly developing new types of chemical weapons.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said last week that Syrian armed forces "evolved" their chemical weapons and made continued occasional use of them in smaller amounts since last April.

Full report at:



US 'gravely alarmed' by chemical attacks in Syria

06 February 2018

The U.S. State Department said late Monday it is "gravely alarmed" over reports of chemical attacks by the Syrian regime.

"The United States is gravely alarmed by continued allegations of the use of chlorine gas by the Syrian regime to terrorize innocent civilians, this time in Idlib province near Saraqib," it said in a statement.

Emphasizing that the attack is the sixth reported instance in the past 30 days in Syria, the State Department urged the international community to demand Syria cease using chemical weapons.

"We implore the international community to speak with one voice, taking every opportunity to publicly pressure the Assad regime, and its supporters, to cease its use of chemical weapons and hold those responsible accountable for these brutal attacks," the statement said.

The statement also said Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in East Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Moscow became involved in Syria.

By shielding the Syrian regime from accountability, Russia has not lived up to its commitments, the State Department said, adding the use of chemical weapons by all parties in Syria must stop.

Located in northern Syria near the Turkish border, Idlib was declared a de-escalation zone according to a cease-fire agreement last May reached in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

The Syrian regime, however, has repeatedly violated the deal and has targeted residential areas in opposition-held no-tension zones like Idlib.

Controlled by anti-regime armed groups, the province has been under intense airstrikes for the past two months.

In January alone, 211 civilians were killed and 1,447 wounded.

Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since March 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Full report at:



Southeast Asia


Maldives declares state of emergency as crisis deepens

February 06, 2018

MALÉ - Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Monday declared a 15-day state of emergency , his aide Azima Shukoor announced, deepening the political crisis in the Indian Ocean nation.

The move gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain suspects, and comes amid a tense standoff between the Supreme Court and the government.

The president has refused to comply with a court order to release political prisoners, despite growing international pressure and concern.

Shukoor read out the declaration on state television shortly after Yameen sent three letters to the judges asking them to reverse their decision.

This is the second time Yameen has declared a state of emergency . He last took the step in November 2015 after an alleged attempt to assassinate him.

Officials said the president is required to inform the parliament about any declaration of emergency within two days, but the country’s legislature has been suspended indefinitely by authorities.

The Supreme Court on Thursday had also restored the seats of 12 MPs who had defected from Yameen’s party, effectively handing the opposition a majority in the 85-member parliament, making the president vulnerable to impeachment.

Opposition leaders in the Maldives urged the international community Monday to pressure President Abdulla Yameen into obeying a court order to free political prisoners and “restore democracy” to the troubled honeymoon islands.

Yameen’s regime has so far refused to release nine jailed dissidents and reinstate opposition lawmakers as ordered by the Maldives’ top court in a shock ruling last week that has deepened turmoil in the atoll nation.

The Supreme Court on Sunday asked Yameen to comply with its order, saying the dissidents must be released because their trials were politically motivated and flawed.

But the strongman leader has remained defiant, suspending parliament, ordering the arrest of two returning opposition defectors and staging a rally late Sunday with hundreds of supporters in the capital Male.

In a letter addressed to the international community, Maldive opposition lawmakers appealed for external support in persuading Yameen to end the tense standoff with the country’s highest court.

“We request the international community, including India, Sri Lanka, the US, Britain, the EU... to do everything in their power to help return power to the people of the Maldives and restore democracy,” the statement read.

Yameen has faced increasing pressure to respect Thursday’s landmark court ruling, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the weekend calling for “restraint” as the crisis escalated.

Impeachment ‘illegal’

The United Nations, Australia, Britain, Canada, India and the United States welcomed the court’s decision as a move towards restoring democracy in the troubled Indian Ocean nation. Yameen has faced previous unsuccessful opposition attempts to impeach him for alleged corruption.

But the court order, to restore the seats of 12 government MPs who defected to the opposition, would effectively reduce Yameen’s party to a minority. Attorney General Mohamed Anil warned Sunday that any move to impeach the president would be “unconstitutional and illegal”.

Two opposition lawmakers who returned to the Maldives since the court’s ruling were detained by police to face court on Monday.

One was freed by a criminal court in Male, while the other awaits a hearing.

Parliament, due to resume Monday, was suspended indefinitely at the weekend by Yameen, who has deployed troops to occupy the People’s Majlis since March last year.

Opposition parties rallied in Male on Sunday, but there was no repeat of the police clashes and tear gas that rocked the capital over the weekend.

The court’s ruling also opens the way for exiled former leader of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed to run for president after the Supreme Court quashed his conviction for terrorism.

Nasheed - who was barred from contesting any election after a controversial 2015 conviction on a terrorism charge - has described Yameen’s refusal to obey the Supreme Court as a “coup”.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party said the court’s ruling “effectively ends President Yameen’s authoritarian rule”.

Yameen’s crackdown on dissent has tarnished the Maldives’ image as an upmarket holiday paradise. He has jailed almost all the political opposition since 2013, when he won a controversial run-off election against Nasheed.



Indonesia to hold 'landmark' jihadist-terror survivor meeting

05 Feb 2018

JAKARTA: A landmark reconciliation meeting between survivors of terror attacks and the perpetrators will be held in Indonesia this month, Jakarta said Monday (Feb 5).

The meeting, announced by chief security minister Wiranto, is being touted as a first for Muslim-majority Indonesia, which has long struggled with Islamist militancy and attacks.

"This meeting is quite unique - it has not ever happened before," Wiranto, who like many Indonesians goes only by one name, told reporters in the capital Jakarta.

People currently incarcerated for terror-related offences and ex-convicts will get the chance to apologise to survivors at the meeting, he said.

The government did not release the names of the militants or the survivors, and it was not clear for how long or where the two groups would meet. It also did not say if any family members of those killed in such attacks would participate.

Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, has suffered a string of extremist attacks in the past 16 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

A crackdown has weakened the most dangerous networks but fears have grown of a resurgence in militancy after hundreds of Indonesians flocked to the Middle East and the Philippines in recent years to join the Islamic State group.

The spectre of a flood of battle-hardened militants returning to Indonesia has driven a push for effective programmes aimed at deradicalising hardliners.

Full report at:



Malaysia's Islamist party PAS says only Muslims will make policy should it come to power

Feb 6, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR - The chief of Malaysia's Islamist party PAS has indicated that non-Muslims will only have a secondary role in government should his party take power at the next general election.

Muslims in his Cabinet would set policy direction in Malaysia while the non-Muslim ministers would only be tasked with carrying out what had been decided, said Abdul Hadi Awang, president of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

"If PAS rules, it (the administration) will be divided into two. One, a cabinet that decides on national policies. This must consist of people who adopt the national ideology and faith," he was quoted as saying last Sunday (Feb 4) by The Malaysia Insight (TMI) news site, during a dialogue with Indian non-governmental organisations in Penang.

"This cabinet will appoint an executive cabinet to carry out the policies and the members can be non-Muslims, appointed based on their expertise," he added.

It was not clear what he meant by "the national ideology and faith", but Islam is Malaysia's official religion.

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi made the comments on Sunday when asked by an Indian activist on whether there was a place for Indians in a PAS federal cabinet.

Mr Abdul Hadi courted controversy last month when he said the Malaysian government should only be led by Malay-Muslims.

Since independence, each member of the multi-ethnic Malaysian Cabinet has an equal voice on policy decisions. Malaysia has been ruled by the 13-party Barisan Nasional coalition since independence.

The PAS chief on Monday (Feb 5) said news reports saying he was mulling two different Cabinets, one consisting of Muslims and another for non-Muslims, were wrong.

"Dual cabinet is incorrect, it's not a dual cabinet but the distribution of duties," Mr Abdul Hadi was quoted as telling Malaysiakini news site.

While there would be no dual cabinet, the concept of those professing the "national faith" formulating national policies was contained in Islamic scriptures, he was further quoted as saying.

PAS, an opposition party, has only 13 seats in the 222 national Parliament today but has announced its intention to take over the country and bring its version of Islamist rule into Malaysia.

Mr Abdul Hadi said last month that it aims to win a simple majority of 112 seats at the upcoming polls. The party's best electoral performance was winning 27 parliamentary seats in 1999 at the height of Reformasi anger.

PAS officials have said that at worst, they hope to win 40 parliamentary seats to become a kingmaker that would steer South-east Asia's third biggest economy towards its Islamist goal.

At the Sunday event with the Indian NGOs, Mr Hadi was also asked whether PAS would introduce hudud, the Islamic crminal code that includes amputations for thieves.

He did not answer the question directly, according to TMI.

"If there is hudud, it will follow what is already provided in the federal constitution or state enactments. But non-Muslims will be given a choice of whether to (be governed by) hudud or civil law," he was quoted as saying.

But if people understood hudud better, he said, they would choose it over civil law because it was a fair system.

Full report at:



China's Muslim Minority Sent To Political Education Camps Amid Allegations Of Gross Human Rights Violations

By Cristina Maza


Muslims in China are being rounded up and forced into political education camps that resemble the prisons ubiquitous in the country during the repressive Maoist era, according to reports.

More than 100,000 Uyghur Muslims are estimated to be detained in so-called “re-education” centers in China’s Western Xinjiang region, according to human rights groups. Tens of thousands of people are allegedly detained in the city of Kashgar alone. The facilities are reportedly squalid and overcrowded, and inmates are forced to sing songs praising the Chinese Communist Party and renounce their religious beliefs.

“We are deeply troubled by the astonishing numbers of Uighur reportedly detained in these camps. Nearly every Uyghur family in exile has heard of a family member who has disappeared into one of these 're-education' centers,” Peter Irwin, a representative of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, told Newsweek.

“The situation on the ground, however, did not arise from nowhere. What we are witnessing today is the result of at least two decades of policy designed to limit Uyghur political and cultural rights, while implementing the surveillance infrastructure necessary to enforce these very restrictions,” Irwin continued.

The Uyghur are a Turkish ethnic minority that practice Islam and reside primarily in China and parts of Central Asia. China’s government claims the Uyghur support a Muslim separatist insurgency, and Chinese state media frequently argues that the Uyghur are easily influenced by extremist ideologies.

For decades, around 11 million Uyghur have been subjected to surveillance, arrest and gross human rights violations, rights groups say. The situation has increased in severity over the last year, when a man named Chen Quanguo became the new Communist party leader in Xinjiang and started using new surveillance technologies to monitor the Uyghur population.

“Party Secretary Chen Quanguo has dramatically increased the police presence in Xinjiang by advertising over 90,000 new police and security-related positions,” read a 2017 report from the Jamestown Foundation.

“This soldier-turned-politician is little known outside of China, but within China he has gained a reputation as an ethnic policy innovator, pioneering a range of new methods for securing Chinese Communist party rule over Uyghur, Tibetans and other ethnic minorities in western China.”

Full report at:



Indonesia to hold reconciliation meetings between terror convicts and survivors

February 05, 2018

A landmark reconciliation meeting between survivors of terror attacks and the perpetrators will be held in Indonesia this month, Jakarta said on Monday.

The meeting, announced by Chief Security Minister Wiranto, is being touted as a first for Muslim-majority Indonesia , which has long struggled with terrorist attacks.

“This meeting is quite unique; it has not ever happened before,” Wiranto, who like many Indonesians goes only by one name, told reporters in the capital Jakarta.

People currently incarcerated for terror-related offences and ex-convicts will get the chance to apologise to survivors at the meeting, he said.

The government did not release the names of the militants or the survivors, and it was not clear for how long or where the two groups would meet. It also did not say if any family members of those killed in such attacks would participate.

Indonesia , which has the world's biggest Muslim population, has suffered a string of extremist attacks in the past 16 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

A crackdown has weakened the most dangerous networks but fears have grown of a resurgence in militancy after hundreds of Indonesians flocked to the Middle East and the Philippines in recent years to join the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

The spectre of a flood of battle-hardened militants returning to Indonesia has driven a push for effective programmes aimed at deradicalising hardliners.

Full report at:



Muslim leaders declare Marawi a 'zone of peace'

February 2, 2018

A group of Muslim leaders in Mindanao has declared Marawi, which was devastated by a five-month armed conflict last year, as a "darussalam" or "zone of peace" instead of a "killing field."

The declaration was made this week after about 100 members of the Federated Royal Sultanate League of the Philippines vowed to assist in the reconstruction of the war-torn city.

Bishop Edwin de la Pena, the Catholic prelate of Marawi, said he would support the Muslims in accordance with Islamic principles.

"We can assure you that we will be with you all the way," he said. "We will accompany you all the way in rebuilding Marawi."

The local church rolled out a program last August to help in the "recovery and healing of Marawi" following the attack in May by gunmen inspired by the so-called Islamic State.

About 400,000 people were subsequently displaced from their homes and at least 1,100, mostly militant fighters, were killed in the ensuing fighting.

Shelters and military camp

The government announced this week that it has distributed at least 250 temporary shelters to displaced families from Marawi.

On Jan. 30, the presidential palace said at least 20 percent of the 6,400 housing units targeted for people affected by the fighting have already been built.

"If the trend continues, then we may just have the entire 6,400 finished after a year, within a year of Marawi's liberation," said presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

However, Moro groups have criticized a government plan to set up another military facility along with homes in Marawi.

Drieza Lininding, chairman of the Moro Consensus Group, said the camp would intimidate people from speaking out against military abuse.

"[The camp] is meant to silence forever the affected residents. It is the highest form of suppression," said Lininding.

In a speech during his visit to the city on Jan. 30, President Rodrigo Duterte promised more funds to help rehabilitate the city.

He urged the public to prevent terrorists from entering their communities.

Full report at:





ISIS-supporting teacher showed terrorist propaganda clips to kids, court hears

5 Feb, 2018

A teacher accused of plotting terrorist attacks in the UK has admitted to showing pupils Islamic State propaganda videos in class, saying he wanted to give kids a more ‘holistic view’ of the group.

Umar Haque, 25, is one of four men accused of plotting one or more terrorist attacks in the UK and is currently on trial at London’s Old Bailey. The men had allegedly identified prominent landmarks in the capital, including Big Ben, Heathrow Airport and the Houses of Parliament for their terror campaign.

During his trial, Haque – who also faces charges of training children in terrorism at an east London Mosque – said he agreed to show an Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL) video following a request from one of his students.

He also admitted to being an “official supporter of ISIS” when answering questions about a stash of magazines about the group.

During my Islamic studies lessons I would always play videos relevant to the topic. It was the end of term. The most well behaved of the class, I told them you can pick a video,”local media cites the defendant as saying.

“I was shocked that he says ‘Sir, I want to see an ISIS video.’ I said all right then. It was obviously not a good idea,”said Haque, adding that he played the propaganda video to give a more “more holistic idea of what Islamic State are.”

At the beginning of the trial, prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said Haque had resolved to “carry out one or more violent attacks in this country, with others if he could.” The prosecution said Haque was “fascinated by the warped and extreme ideology of Islamic State,” the Telegraph reported.

Heywood said Haque’s plans “extended to the recruitment of yet others to the [ISIS] cause. Those others were not grown men, but youngsters. Youngsters aged about 11 to 14.”

“His methods were to expose them to information and video recordings and then to have them, in instances, enact scenarios of violent action against the police in this country and other.”

Addressing the jury, the defendant admitted that after a high number of terrorist incidents in Europe in 2015, he had come to support attacks on the West, but felt “heavy on the chest” about it.

While responding to questions regarding notebooks appearing to contain attack plans, Haque said it was only a “theoretical battle” and that he had “no intention of turning this into a practicality.” His trial continues.



How Britain’s ‘Netflix for Muslims’ now plans to woo Asia

5 February 2018

LONDON: “There’s a desperate need for positive media content aimed at Muslims about Muslims,” said Abdalhamid Evans, the new chief operationg officer of startup video channel Alchemiya.

In a time of rising hate crime and anti-Muslim sentiment that appears to be endorsed increasingly at a government level, Evans told Arab News that Alchemiya provides a ‘voice for Muslim culture.’

“No preaching, no teachings and no politics,” he said. “Just artisans at work: writers, poets, musicians and more.”

Alchemiya, frequently dubbed as ‘Netflix for Muslims’, currently features a small but high-brow menu of Muslim-related lifestyle content, from travel and history to cooking and the arts, as well as films and documentaries. The channel says it has 5,000 registered users in 40 countries.

British-Muslim convert Evans said there is currently no ‘middle ground’ Islamic media narrative between the constant stream of terrorism-related news and sectarian religious theology.

However, when BBC production veteran Navid Akhtar first launched Alchemiya in 2014, the global media landscape was largely browser-based and the company’s trajectory looked very different, says Evans. Today the firm has gained a new lease of life as it evolves into a fully-fledged video-on-demand offering in 2018, he said.

“Navid first approached me to join him in 2014, but I decided to join this year as I feel there is a convergence of global trends that will make Alchemiya a success,” Evans said.

Evans explained: “We are targeting global, urban, educated Muslims — a demographic that is growing in number. There simply isn’t any content on offer that provides an inspirational and contemporary perspective on the peaceful, productive and creative aspect of Islam.”

In many ways the figures say it all. According to The Global State of the Economy Report 2017/18 from Thomson Reuters, Muslim spend on media and entertainment was $198 billion in 2016, and it is forecast to reach $281 billion by 2022.

Evans said he sees a ‘convergence’ of trends between the misrepresentation of Islam in the media, rising social mobility and income among Muslims, the changing nature of television distribution as it goes online and the rise of video services on mobiles.

“We are targeting Muslims who are educated and cultured, but if they want to ‘dumb down’ there’s plenty of other stuff out there,” he said.

As Evans talks it becomes more and more clear that Alchemiya — as a vision and a company — is at a critical juncture.

The media channel, which has 50 videos in its library at present, is about to launch its VoD service to 90 million mobile phone subscribers in Southeast Asia in mid-2018. Axiata, one of the region’s largest mobile operators, has signed a formal letter of intent to carry Alchemiya’s Muslim lifestyle content on its mobile phone platforms in Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

This deal becomes even more pivotal when viewed in the context of South Asia’s prolific VoD takeup. According to Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media Report 2017, half of all video viewing will be done on mobile devices and the Asia Pacific region will lead the market.

Evans said Alchemiya plans to scale up its video library to around 500 films within the next year. To help fund this rapid expansion, it will open a new round of funding with crowd investment platform CrowdCube in the coming weeks. This is the firm’s third investment round, following two earlier rounds that clinched over £200,000 ($282,400) of public investment.

Alchemiya also recently listed its video library on Amazon Prime as an add-on bundle and signed a revenue sharing contract with Pakistan’s biggest broadband supplier Pakistan Telecommunication.

Evans said that while Alchemiya is, of course, a moneymaking venture, it’s also a vision that ‘comes from the heart’. “We want to promote peace. As a society, we have nothing without peace,” he said.

“We want to provide a space where talented Muslim filmmakers can place their content. These days you can make excellently produced movies even on an iPhone. And it eases the pressure on young Muslims — perhaps if there is more creative outlets there will be less room for radicalization.”

To this end, Evans said that Alchemiya will siphon off 5 percent of its revenue into a foundation to help jumpstart Muslim filmmaker careers.

“In a way, our business also ties in with the rise of social enterprises and conscious capitalism… there is a lot of negativity against Islam and we want to present Muslims in a positive light,” he said.

Full report at:



Paris attacks suspect lambasts ‘anti-Muslim bias’

February 06, 2018

BRUSSELS - The sole surviving suspect from the 2015 Paris terror attacks is refusing to speak any further in a Belgian court, where he is on trial over the gunfight that led to his arrest.

Salah Abdeslam has said he will not respond to questions from the judge.  “My silence does not make me a criminal, it’s my defence,” he said. Abdeslam, 28, claimed that Muslims were “judged and treated in the worst of ways, mercilessly”, and said he was placing his trust in Allah.

The Belgian-born French national of Moroccan descent alleged that the court in Brussels was biased against Muslims as he explained why he would not cooperate despite having asked to attend the trial. “My silence does not make me a criminal, it’s my defence,” Abdeslam said. “Muslims are judged and treated in the worst of ways, mercilessly. There is no presumption of innocence.”

He also refused to allow photographs or video images to be taken of him. He has point-blank refused to speak to investigators since his arrest in Brussels March 2016, three days after the gunbattle in the Forest district of the city for which he is on trial.

The 28-year-old, who was transferred under heavy security from a jail near the French capital overnight for the trial, refused to answer questions about the gunbattle in Brussels or stand for the court.

“I am not afraid of you, I am not afraid of your allies,” said a defiant Abdeslam, who has grown long hair and a beard during his nearly two years behind bars.

Abdeslam and Sofiane Ayari, a 24-year-old Tunisian arrested with him, face charges of attempted terrorist murder of police officers and carrying banned weapons. Three police officers were wounded and an Algerian fellow militant was killed. The pair face up to 40 years in prison if convicted. Abdeslam’s arrest ended four months on the run as Europe’s most wanted man following the November 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people, and in which his brother Brahim carried out a suicide bombing. Police officers wearing body armour and black balaclavas with eye- and mouth-holes stood guard next to them as the trial started.

Abdeslam, wearing a long-sleeved light shirt and dark trousers, launched into his diatribe after presiding judge Marie-France Keutgen asked why he insisted on attending the trial where he refused to answer questions about the charges against him.

The judge rejected his accusations of bias, insisting he was presumed innocent.

Hundreds of members of Belgian security forces turned the Palais de Justice court building into a virtual fortress while a helicopter with searchlights circled overhead as he arrived.

The non-jury trial is the prelude to a later one in France and prosecutors hope the Brussels case will yield clues not only about the Paris attacks but also the Brussels bombings on March 22, 2016.

Investigators believe Abdeslam’s capture three days after the shootout caused members of his militant cell to bring forward plans for the attacks on Brussels airport and a metro station in which 32 people were killed.

Ayari, who is cooperating with authorities, told the judge he knew Ibrahim Bakroui, one of the suicide bombers at Brussels airport, adding he visited the apartment where the shootout occurred.

The same cell is believed to have been behind both the Paris and Brussels attacks, which were claimed by the Islamic State group.

But Ayari - who entered Europe via the Greek islands during the European migration crisis in 2015 - insisted: “I don’t think I am a radical.”

The plans for transferring Abdeslam from Fleury-Merogis prison in the Parisian suburbs, and then back to a prison just across the border in northern France every night, were shrouded in secrecy.

Two separate convoys left Fleury-Merogis in the middle of the night with an escort of elite French officers with blue lights flashing, while a third group of unmarked vehicles left shortly afterwards.

The boyish former bar owner has spent nearly 20 months in isolation under 24-hour video surveillance at Fleury-Merogis, after being transferred to France after his arrest.

Police say Abdeslam and Ayari escaped through the back door of the flat in Forest while a third suspect , Algerian Mohamed Belkaid, died while providing covering fire for their escape through a back door.

Police say they found Abdeslam’s fingerprints in the flat, confirming they were on the trail of the last suspect in the rifle and bomb attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, bars, restaurants and the national stadium in the French capital on November 13, 2015.

Abdeslam is reported to have disposed of a suicide belt before fleeing. He is also suspected of being the driver in the attacks.

Full report at:



Protesters gather outside Saudi embassy in London to condemn UK arms sales

Feb 5, 2018

Protesters have rallied outside the Saudi embassy in London against UK's arms sales to the kingdom, which has been waging a destructive war on Yemen for some three years now.

The demonstration, organized by the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) group, featured campaigners expressing their outrage at British profiteering from the ongoing bloodshed which has taken more than 13,500 Yemeni lives so far.

Ian Pocock, a spokesman for the CAAT, said London was "complicit in the assault on Yemen", calling on British citizens to protest against the government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia. 

"They (the UK government) have sold 1.6 billion pounds (over $2 billion) worth of weapons to the Saudi regime since the war began in March 2015, so we want to see the government put an end to this profiteering for the sake of all the deaths and devastation it has caused in one of the world's poorest countries," he said.

Stephen Bell, spokesman for the British activism group Stop the War Coalition, said the UK government was "completely aligned, along with the US government, with the Saudi-led coalition."

Both campaigners said the tide of public opinion in the UK had turned significantly against London's support for the warfare. 

The UK has increased its weapons sales by around 500 percent since the onset of the Saudi invasion, The Independent reported last November.

The weapons sold by Britain, which has also been providing logistical and arms support for the bombardment, include precision-guided bombs.

Last month, a UN panel which examined 10 airstrikes by Saudi Arabia that had killed 157 people in Yemen last year, reported that the kingdom had intentionally used precision-guided munitions in their raids on civilian targets.

“The attacks were carried out by precision-guided munitions, so it is likely these were the intended targets,” the report said.

Last February, Scottish Daily Record newspaper reported that evidence submitted during a legal case into British arms sales to Saudi Arabia had revealed that the UK trained the Saudi air force on how to use precision-guided Paveway IV bombs.

Full report at:





Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon despite ‘defeated’ claims

5 February 2018

MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA: Boko Haram fighters stormed a village in northeast Nigeria and murdered two civilians, while six people were killed in an attack in northern Cameroon, a local resident and security sources told AFP on Monday.

The attacks came as Nigeria’s military again maintained the jihadists had been defeated, and that its repeated raids and suicide bombings were “a sign of weakness.”

At least 20,000 people have been killed in nearly nine years of violence and more than 2.6 million made homeless, triggering a humanitarian crisis across the Lake Chad region.

Bulama Bukar said Boko Haram fighters stormed his village, Alau-Kofa, about 8:00 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Sunday, firing guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

“Two people were burnt alive and the whole village was burnt, along with our food,” he told AFP.

Bukar, whose father was shot in the leg during the attack, said the jihadists “specifically came to steal our cattle” but were forced to abandon the herds when soldiers arrived.

“Last Wednesday they attacked the village, killed three people and took away 50 cattle. And now they came back,” he added.

A security source 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, confirmed Bukar’s account.

“It is part of the fightback strategy by the terrorists, who are facing mounting pressure from the military,” he said.

Another security source in Cameroon said “six people were killed and the attackers burnt down more than 100 houses” in the village of Hitawa, at about 11:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Nigeria’s military said last week they had cleared the Sambisa Forest in Borno state of Boko Haram fighters — just over a year after making a similar claim.

Major General Rogers Ibe Nicholas, leading operations against the jihadists, was reported as saying on Monday that the Islamic State affiliate was “completely defeated.”

Asked about the claim, he told AFP: “In the Sambisa Forest where we have them, we have completely defeated them.”

The military was “taking them on wherever they go outside that area, he added. He attributed Sunday’s attack in Alau-Kofa to “criminals who came to steal goats.”

At a meeting with the military and security agencies in Maiduguri, Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed said: “The last phase of the war with Boko Haram is now on.

“The military is punching deep into the enclaves of the insurgents,” he said, adding that the group was only able to mount “cowardly attacks on soft targets.”

“That, in itself, is a sign of weakness,” he added.

There have been repeated assertions that military operations were in the final stages dating back even further to the previous administration.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari first claimed the jihadists were “technically defeated” in December 2015.

But the security source warned against triumphalism, despite recent successes.

“They have indeed been pushed out of Sambisa. They have relocated their camps to Dubur and Yuwe on the rear fringes of Sambisa.”

Boko Haram’s capacity has been weakened since it controlled swathes of territory in northeast Nigeria in 2014 but it still poses a threat.

The BBC last month said the militants killed at least 967 people in 150 attacks in 2017, up from 910 deaths in 127 attacks the previous year.

Civilians remain at risk, particularly in remote rural areas and even in more well-guarded camps for people displaced by the conflict.

This and a recent federal government request for an extra $1 billion for security funding have led to questions about the veracity of claims about the end of the conflict.

Similarly, the military has been asked why it needs 12 Super Tucano A-29 ground aircraft from the United States if the militants are scattered and on the run.

The air force said last month the aircraft were required “to consolidate on successes recorded so far.”

The security source said troops on the ground remained cautious about hunting down Boko Haram factional leader Abubakar Shekau, as he was using hostages as human shields.

They include some of the schoolgirls abducted from the Borno town of Chibok in April 2014 and female police officers seized in an ambush last year.

“They don’t want to harm them, which is why they are limiting aerial offensives,” he added.



Islamic State, al-Qaeda Support Fuels Attacks in West Africa

February 5, 2018

Islamist militant groups in West Africa’s Sahel region are using increased support from al-Qaeda and Islamic State and enhanced cooperation among themselves to carry out more sophisticated and deadly attacks, according to the chief of United Nations mission in Mali.

“When we examine the explosives, the types of mines, shells and weapons they use, our experts tell us that a fairly advanced level of expertise is required that they didn’t have before,” the UN special representative in Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, said Friday in an interview in the capital, Bamako.

The militant groups are operating across a semi-arid region stretching along the southern end of the Sahara from Mali to Nigeria. France has almost 4,000 soldiers in the region, and the U.S. has troops in Niger and is building a drone and airbase in the northern city of Agadez. The UN has more than 13,000 members in its Mali mission, which suffered the greatest loss of life of any of its peacekeeping operations last year.

Despite the increased military involvement by foreign powers and West African armies, the violence shows no sign of abating. The militant’s outside support is probably coming through Libya, Annadif said. They also have acquired funds from kidnappings and trafficking of drugs and migrants seeking to reach Europe.

“What is happening in Libya, what is happening in the Middle East, Syria and Iraq, has an influence,” he said. “There is a relationship between what is happening here and what is happening there, through Libya.”

A group known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara claimed responsibility for an attack in October on a joint patrol of U.S and Nigerien forces in which four U.S. soldiers were killed. It mostly operates near the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, Annadif said.

The Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, an affiliate of al-Qaeda formed last year by four local groups and known by the acronym JNIM, operates in northern and central Mali including in the towns of Kidal, Timbuktu and Mopti, Annadif said. The merger has “given an new impetus” to these groups and also explains the rising number of attacks, he said.

Expanded Operations

In Mali, militant groups have expanded their area of operations, increasingly targeting more populated central Mali. More attacks occurred in the central Mopti and Segou regions during the last three months of 2017 than in the five northern regions combined. Violence has also spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Attacks in Mali intensified in late January. At least 22 Malian soldiers were killed in five separate raids in north and central Mali between Jan. 25 and Jan. 31, prompting the army to impose a ban on motorcycles and pickups in some areas.

There’s also growing evidence that both al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked groups in West Africa are now cooperating at the operational level and that there are connections with IS-affiliates in the Lake Chad region close to northeastern Nigeria, Annadif said.

“I’m one of those who think there’s not much difference between IS and al-Qaeda,” he said. “They have internal disparties, but on the ground there isn’t that big a difference.”

Separatist Insurgency

Mali has been gripped by violence since ethnic Tuareg rebels began a separatist insurgency and joined forces with Islamist militants to seize control of the sparsely populated north in 2012. While a 2013 French military intervention prevented the insurgents from marching southward to the capital, jihadists resorted to attacking Mali’s military and the UN peacekeeping force that arrived after the French operation.

Militants used to mainly carry out hit-and-run attacks and bombings but are now also carrying out more complex assaults. As many as 26 civilians died when their bus hit a landmine near the town of Boni in central Mali, on Jan. 25. The mine was meant for UN peacekeepers patrolling in the region, according to Mali’s Security Minister, Salif Traore.

Delays in implementing a 2015 peace deal between Mali’s government and insurgents in the north have left a stalemate in which militants can easily recruit young fighters, Annadif said. Last month, the UN Security Council threatened to impose sanctions on the parties blocking the implementation of the accord.

Full report at:



Suspected Jihadists Kill 2 Soldiers in Mali

February 05, 2018


Suspected jihadists killed two Malian soldiers overnight in the country's unstable north, military sources said Monday, adding that they also attacked a police station.

Mali's deteriorating security situation is of growing concern as al-Qaida-linked groups mount increasingly deadly attacks on domestic and foreign forces.

"Terrorists on motorbikes opened fire" on two soldiers from the National Guard at Gossi, south of Gao, a major city in the region, a military source told AFP.

Another source said the two men were shot in the head.

On Sunday evening, suspected jihadists also attacked a police station at Hombori, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Gossi.

"The army responded. To the best of our knowledge, there are no victims," a security source told AFP.

At least four civilians were killed in the north on Friday and Saturday and authorities have banned motorbikes and pick-up trucks in some areas to prevent further jihadist attacks.

Such vehicles are often used by Islamist fighters, in the north and the center of the country.

The ban applies to a dozen "circles" in the central regions of Segou and Mopti and northwest Timbuktu region, a military statement said.

Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaida took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

Full report at:



Central African Republic: Rebel Leader Urges End to CAR Civil War


By Jean Kassongo

Kinshasa — THERE is a glimmer of hope in the crisis-torn Central African Republic (CAR) after one of the country's most feared rebel leaders urged his militants to lay down arms.

Armel Sayo, the president of the fearsome Revolution and Justice (RJ) movement, made the rare call, urging all rebel elements to cease hostilities and integrate the national programme of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR).

Sayo, formerly Minister of Youth and Sports, also acknowledged that the national defense and security forces as well as the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSCA) are the only legitimate forces responsible for the protection and safety of civilians in CAR.

Vladimir Monteiro, MINUSCA spokesperson, said the implementation of the RJ declaration was a positive step in efforts to reclaim peace in the Central African country of 4,5 million.

"MINUSCA looks forward to seeing the elements of the RJ respect the commitments made solemnly by the president of their movement," Monteiro said.

The envoy urged all armed groups to follow the example of the RJ, lay down their arms and join the national DDR programme the UN piloted in 2016.

The predominantly-Christian CAR is torn apart by clashes involving Christian extremists and Muslim radicals.

Muslim Seleka rebels led by Michel Djotodia overthrew the then President Francois Bozize in 2013.

Full report at:



South Asia


Islamic State threatens Iran from 'Tora Bora' borderlands

FEBRUARY 5, 2018

HALABJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Islamic State may be on the wane in Iraq and Syria but for Iran, the threat is still strong, centered on Kurdish communities along the Iraq-Iran border where militants have operated in recent years.

The locals even have a nickname for the area, “Tora Bora”, after the mountain hideout al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden fled to after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, a senior Iraqi security official in the border region said.

In late January, three Revolutionary Guards were killed in the Bamo region fighting 21 Islamic State militants who had sneaked in from Iraq. Three militants detonated suicide vests and two others were killed in the clash, the Guards said.

Days earlier, Iran’s intelligence ministry found a weapons cache in the town of Marivan on the Iranian side of the border that included TNT, C4, electronic detonators, grenades, ammunition clips for AK-47 machine guns and rocket propelled grenades.

The clash and discovery indicate that Islamic State still has the ability to penetrate the tightly controlled security net of the Islamic Republic, which has largely managed to avoid the devastation wrought by the group in neighboring countries.

“Today (Islamic State) does not control a country ... in order to assert that they exist, they may carry out an attack any day,” Hossein Dehghan, a former defense minister and now an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a recent interview with the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Halabja, the largest town on the Iraqi side, is most often remembered for a chemical attack ordered by then-President Saddam Hussein in 1988 which left thousands dead.

The presence of religious militants in the area around the town is not new: at the city’s entrance hang portraits of Iraqi Kurdish security forces, known as Peshmerga, killed in the battle against Islamic State.

Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the jihadist largely blamed for stoking a civil war between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shi’ites, led a group in the area called Ansar al-Islam, which merged with Islamic State in 2014.

Many of the Iranian and Iraqi Kurds now fighting with Islamic State are part of a second generation of militants largely influenced by Zarqawi’s deadly legacy, Iraqi security officials and Peshmerga commanders familiar with the matter say.

Sunni IS militants see Shi’ites, who make up the majority of Iran’s population, as apostates and have repeatedly threatened to carry out attacks in the Islamic Republic. Kurds make up about ten percent of Iranians and are predominantly Sunni.

Hamai Hama Seid, a senior Peshmerga commander and member of the Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party, said Kurdish IS militants take advantage of their knowledge of the language and region as well as strong cross-border ties.

“There are definitely ties between the Iranian and Iraqi extremists on the two sides of the border,” Seid told Reuters in the Iraqi border village of Tawila, only a few hundred meters from the Iranian border. He added:

“The militants exploited this area because it’s mountainous, difficult and wooded.”

Many of the young men are poorly educated and have few economic opportunities, allowing extremist recruiters to flourish, Iraqi security officials and Peshmerga commanders say.


Iranian authorities say the arms cache found on the border was going to be used to attack civilians in public areas, a follow-up to the shocking assault on the parliament in Tehran and the mausoleum of the founder of Iran’s revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, last June that left at least 18 people dead and dozens wounded.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for that assault and threatened more. The Revolutionary Guards responded by raining missiles on the militants in Syria and arresting dozens of suspects in Iran.

The June attack was conceived by an Iraqi militant using the nom de guerre Abu Aisha, a senior commander in a unit of Islamic State fighting in Iraq and Syria made up exclusively of Kurds, according to the Iranian ministry of intelligence.

The Tehran attackers fought in Mosul and Raqqa and trained outside Iran, the ministry said.

Photos posted online show Abu Aisha, a member of Ansar al-Islam prior to joining Islamic State, beheading Peshmerga soldiers while wearing a traditional Kurdish outfit.

In the fall of 2016, a number of Kurdish Islamic State militants led by Abu Aisha came to an Iraqi border village near Halabja to try to establish a base of operations which could carry out attacks in both Iran and Iraq, according to Iraqi security officials familiar with the matter.

Peshmerga killed Abu Aisha in December 2016, according to Iraqi security officials and Kurdish activist Mokhtar Hooshmand, who was jailed in Iran on national security charges from 2010 to 2012 and met dozens of Sunni extremists behind bars.

Afterward, Serias Sadeghi, who ran a bakery with his brother in Paveh, an Iranian town about 15 km (9 miles) from the border, took over as lead planner for the Tehran attacks, Hooshmand said by telephone from outside Iran.

Sadeghi knew Abu Aisha and had crossed back and forth into Iraq with him multiple times.

“Sadeghi was still very eager that this operation be carried out,” Hooshmand said. “He played a key role.”

During the attack on Khomeini’s mausoleum, Sadeghi detonated a suicide vest, shooting up an orange fireball captured on amateur video. The other four attackers were also killed.

Critics of the Iranian government say the Islamic Republic is reaping what they sowed in the area: it failed to crack down earlier on the militants because they served as a counter-balance to secular groups who opposed the central government.

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), an Iranian opposition group fighting for greater autonomy for the Kurdish community, posted a report online in 2014 about militants spreading propaganda for Islamic State and trying to recruit young men for the group in Iran. They named Sadeghi as an individual actively recruiting in Paveh.

“They were in most of the mosques in Kurdistan and spread propaganda but none of them were arrested by the Islamic Republic,” said Mohammad Saleh Ghaderi, a representative of the PDKI in Erbil.

Attempts to reach representatives from the Iranian Ministry of Interior were not successful. But documents show Iranian authorities were aware of the growing threat.

A report issued by Iran’s Ministry of Interior noted in 2014: ”Many Salafist Iranian Kurds have announced the readiness to join Islamic State in Iraq and many have traveled to Syria.

“Salafi and Takfiri Iranian groups are pumping Iranian Kurdish youth toward Islamic State and sending them to Iraq,” the report said, using terms employed by Iranian officials to describe Sunni religious extremists.

“Not a day goes by that funerals are not held for them in Iranian Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan,” the report said. It added: “In the future we will witness a large number of Iranian Kurds ... joining Islamic State.”



25 ISIS militants killed in the latest airstrikes in Nangarhar

Feb 05 2018

At least twenty militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed in the airstrikes conducted in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East said the latest airstrikes were carried out in the vicinity of Achin district.

According to the Silab Corps, the militants were targeted in Mamand Dara area of the district and as a result at least 25 insurgents were killed.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the ISIS insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.

This comes as the local officials said Saturday at least three ISIS militants were killed in drone strikes in this province.

The officials further added that the airstrikes were carried out by the unmanned aerial vehicles of the US forces in Haska Mina district.

According to the officials, some weapons, ammunition, and explosives of the terror group were also eliminated during the airstrikes.

Full report at:



Government mulling execution of inmates in Kabul, claims Taliban

Feb 05 2018

The Taliban group has claimed that the Afghan government is mulling to execute a number of prisoners belonging to the Taliban group in Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison.

Taliban group spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement said the Afghan authorities have started shifting several prisoners in Pul-e-Charkhi since Sunday.

Mujahid further added that the information received by the group suggests that the government is planning to carry out execution of the prisoners having links with the Taliban.

He warned that the execution of the political inmates and Taliban affiliates will have negative consequences and that the government and judicial institutions of the government will be responsible.

Mujahid also claimed that the government and its judicial institutions have no legitimacy and the capabilities to carry out executions on Taliban affiliates.

He also called on international rights organizations to intervene and prevent the Afghan government and the United States from the execution of the prisoners.

The Afghan government officials have not formally commented regarding the execution plans and the Taliban claims so far.

However, the leaders of the government of national unity had earlier said that there will be no mercy on terrorists after the recent atrocities committed in Kabul and other parts of the country.

Hundreds of people were killed or wounded in a series of deadly attacks in the capital and other provinces.

Full report at:



US redeploying troops to Afghanistan from Iraq: Report

Feb 5, 2018

The US military is pulling its forces from a base in Iraq and shifting them to Afghanistan following the defeat of Daesh militants in the Arab country, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

The news agency quoted Western contractors at the base as saying that US troops began the drawdown over the past week, with groups of soldiers leaving the base on daily flights.

According to the report, the exact scale of the redeployment was unclear.

The BBC said more than 5,000 US troops were stationed in Iraq as of 2016, with nearly 4,000 others deployed later to purportedly assist local groups fighting Daesh. The remaining troops included special operations forces, logistics workers and soldiers on temporary rotations, the broadcaster said. 

Iraqi officials said their government reached an agreement with the US to reduce the number of troops in Iraq, Fox News reported.

The news came amid reports of a tiff between Baghdad and Washington over the United States' suspension of a maintenance program for Abrams tanks in Iraq.

It is also the latest sign of a growing US military buildup in Afghanistan, contrary to President Donald Trump's election campaign promises to end the intervention.

Trump introduced a new Afghanistan strategy in August, hinting at relaxing the rules of engagement, accelerating strikes and other military actions aimed at producing “an honorable and enduring outcome”.

Since he took office, the number of troops has nearly doubled in Afghanistan – from 8,500 in early 2017 to 14,000 today.

According to The Washington Post, the US Army is floating plans to increase the total number of troops in Afghanistan by another 1,000.

The US invaded Afghanistan with the express aim of defeating Taliban but the militants are openly active in 70 percent of the country, a study released by the BBC said last Tuesday.

Worse still, Daesh has established a foothold in the war-torn country with its trademark brutal attacks.

Full report at:



137 BNP-Jamaat activists held in two days

February 05, 2018

Most of arrests were made when the leaders and activists were planning and gathering to greet Khaleda Zia on her way to Sylhet on Monday

Arrests of BNP leaders and activists have been reported from across the country ahead of the verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case against the party’s Chairperson Khaleda Zia, set to be delivered on February 8.

At least 137 leaders and activists of BNP and its affiliated organizations were arrested from Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Jessore, Sylhet, Narayanganj, Kurigram, Noakhali, Rangpur and Bogra over the last two days. Most of arrests were made when the leaders and activists were planning and gathering to greet Khaleda Zia on her way to Sylhet.

The arrests follow those of central leaders including BNP Assistant Organizing Secretary Masukur Rahman Mashuk, Training Affairs Secretary ABM Mosharraf Hossain, Standing Committee Member Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, BNP Chairperson’s Adviser Amanullah Aman and Executive Committee Member Nazimuddin Alam.


Thirty-seven activists of BNP and Chhatra Dal were arrested from different areas in Sylhet district.

The arrests were made before the arrival of Khaleda Zia in the district, between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Sylhet’s Additional Superintendent of Police Shamsul Islam Sardar informed that eight were arrested from Bishwanath and Kanaighat upazilas, five from Golapganj, 12 from Osmaninagar, Zakiganj, Gowainghat and Balaganj, two from Beanibazar and one from Fenchuganj.

Sylhet Metropolitan Police Additional Deputy Commissioner (Media) Muhammad Abdul Wahab said a night raid had led to the arrest of nine activists from different areas in the city.


Three activists of Swechchhasebak Dal (voluntary wing) were arrested from a gathering at Sherpur area on the Dhaka-Sylhet highway on Monday afternoon. The activists were waiting on the roadside to welcome BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.


Two Chhatra Dal leaders were arrested separately from Eidgah and Umednagar areas of Habiganj on Monday.


Harinakunda Upazila Parishad Chairman and BNP leader MA Majid was detained from Jessore Airport at 8:30pm on Sunday.


Police detained six leaders and activists, including BNP International Affairs Secretary Nazrul Islam Azad and Narayanganj city BNP Vice-President Sakhawat Hossain Khan, from different areas of Narayanganj district around 11am on Monday.


Six activists of Jubo Dal, Chhatra Dal and Swechchhasebak Dal were arrested from Kurigram on Monday.

Confirming the news, Kurigram Superintendent of Police Minhajul Alam said they had arrested the activists to prevent possible subversive activities ahead of the verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case.


Eleven activists of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and BNP were arrested from Noakhali over allegations of their involvement in the planning of subversive activities.

They were arrested during drives in different areas of Noakhali on Monday.


Rangpur district unit BNP claimed at least 12 activists were arrested from Rangpur over the last two days.

Rangpur BNP President Saiful Islam alleged that police had conducted unwarranted searches at the houses of BNP activists and had threatened their family members as well.


Thirteen BNP leaders and activists were held in Bogra on Monday, on charges of planning subversive activities.

This adds to the arrest of 26 leaders and activists durirng overnight drives on Saturday and Sunday.


Eleven leaders and activists of BNP and its affiliated organizations were held from Hizla upazila of Barisal on Monday.

Hizla police station Officer-in-Charge Maksudur Rahman said all the arrestees were the accused in different cases.


Twenty-nine activists of BNP and Jamaat were held from different upazilas of Comilla on Monday.

According to police sources, the arrests were made in connection with subversive activities.


Six Islami Chhatra Shibir activists were held from Naohata Government Primary School in Poba upazila of Rajshahi on Monday afternoon.

Poba police station Officer-in-Charge Hasmot Ali said police conducted a drive at the school acting on a tip-off that 30-40 Shibir activists were holding a secret meeting at the school.

Although six of the activists were captured, the rest of the participants at the meeting managed to flee the scene.

Full report at:



Afghan force conduct raid on a key hideout of Taliban in Nangarhar

Feb 05 2018

The Afghan national defense and security forces have conducted a raid on a key hideout of the Taliban group in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The provincial government media office in a statement said the raid was conducted late on Sunday night in the vicinity of Khogyani district.

The statement further added that the raid was conducted by the Special Operations Forces of the Afghan intelligence directorate and as a result at least nine insurgents were killed.

At least three Taliban commanders were also among those killed, the statement said, adding that the another suspected insurgent was captured alive.

The Taliban commanders killed during the operation have been identified as Ayoub famous as Malik Agha, Alli and Qasab.

The Nangarhar governor’s office also added that the Afghan security forces confiscated some weapons, ammunition, explosives, and some other equipment during the operation and were later destroyed by the security personnel.

The local residents and security personnel have not suffered any casualties during the operation, the statement said.

Full report at:





Reopening of Memogate case a political stunt, says Husain Haqqani

Feb 6, 2018

WASHINGTON: Former ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani has termed the reopening of the Memogate case a political stunt.

In a statement on Monday, Haqqani said there were four chief justices after chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry but none touched the case, adding that six years ago a nine-member bench had heard the case and wondered why just a three-member bench is taking it up now.

“It has been six years since I submitted a review petition to correct legal mistakes in the case. Will the court hear this case too?” he wondered.

Moreover, in a likely reference to Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Haqqani claimed he will not come to Pakistan on “Baba Rehamtay’s” direction, as his orders do not extend beyond Pakistan.

The Memogate scandal erupted in 2011 when Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz claimed to have received an ‘anti-army’ memo from Haqqani, the then-envoy to US, for the then-US joint chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.

The scandal, taken to the Supreme Court by then opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and several others, had led to Haqqani’s resignation.

During the Jan 29 hearing, the chief justice remarked that the purpose of the proceedings was to give the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis. He added that there are some Pakistanis who promised the court to show up but did not return.

Inquiring into the whereabouts of Haqqani, the chief justice asked if he will also be given a right to cast a vote.

“Why don’t we issue him a notice and summon him to face the Memogate case,” the chief justice remarked. He then directed the registrar office to take out the Memogate case file and submit it in court.

Later, the apex court set February 8 as the date when a three-member bench headed by the chief justice and comprising Justices Ijazul Ahsan and Umar Ata Bandial will hear the case.



Accusing Islamabad of terrorism is heinous: Kh Asif

Feb 6, 2018

LONDON: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has condemned accusations that his country was supporting terrorism in Afghanistan, deeming such charges as “heinous”.

He told Arabic newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat: “Nothing can be farther from the truth in these heinous accusations. Pakistan believes in refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of all countries, especially Afghanistan.”

“Pakistan does not allow the use of its territory for attacks against Afghanistan,” stressed the minister.

On the internal conflict in the neighbouring country, he remarked: “We had long wanted a peace process that is purely led by Afghanistan.”

Pakistan is host to three million Afghans, who had fled the unrest in their country in the past three decades, he noted, adding: “We have set an example in this regard, which reflects our commitment to the Afghan people.”

“We have also paid a heavy price for the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. Had there been peace there, Pakistan would have escaped the clutches of terrorism, extremism, drugs and illegal weapons,” stated Asif.

“It is therefore obvious to any regional observer that achieving peace, security and prosperity in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest,” he declared. He reiterated that Pakistan does not allow its territory to be used against Afghanistan and “we do not want any country to use Afghan land against us.”

“We have been taking the necessary measures to that end in our land and we hope that these efforts will be reciprocated on our western borders. Pakistan has made several proposals to Afghanistan on effective border control and we hope it will be cooperative,” he told to Asharq Al-Awsat.

Asked to assess Saudi-Pakistani ties, Asif commented that the two countries “enjoy tight and fraternal ties that stem from joint religious and cultural values.”

“The Saudi leadership has a special place in the heart of Pakistanis and the Pakistani people have great appreciation for Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” King Salman bin Abdulaziz, said the FM.

The relationship is also based on deep mutual trust, which is demonstrated in the similar stances Saudi Arabia and Pakistan take on several regional and international issues, he continued.

“Our ties are comprehensive and we are working together to improve trade relations,” he added.

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s efforts to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East, Asif said that the Kingdom plays a “pioneering role” inside the region and beyond its borders.

“The people of Pakistan and Muslims around the word have great respect to the Kingdom. All Islamic countries look towards Saudi Arabia and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation that is based in Jeddah,” he noted.

“Pakistan appreciates and hails the efforts of the Saudi leadership in achieving peace and stability in the region. We assure to the Kingdom and its people, our complete support in this regard,” he added.

Full report at:



Jadhav now facing trial on terrorism, sabotage charges

Baqir Sajjad Syed

February 06, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was last year convicted and sentenced to death by a military tribunal for spying, is now undergoing trial on terrorism and sabotage charges, an official told Dawn on Monday.

The Pakistan government has, meanwhile, on a number of occasions sought access to 13 Indian officials to ascertain information in the Jadhav case — a fact that is supposedly also mentioned in the counter-memorial submitted at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by Pakistan. But New Delhi has remained stubbornly uncooperative.

The official explained that Jadhav has multiple cases against him in which he had been indicted on terror- and sabotage-related charges. The cases were progressing, he said, emphasising the one relating to spying had only concluded.

Jadhav was captured by Pakistani security forces on March 3, 2016, in Balochistan. He was in April last year sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) after being found guilty of espionage under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act (PAA), 1952, and Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act of 1923.

His appeals against the conviction have been rejected by the military app­ellate court and his mercy petition is lying with Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

About the access to 13 Indian officials, the source said, multiple requests had been made to India.

A source in New Delhi, meanwhile, disclosed that the officials whom Pakistan wanted to access included National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and a former RAW chief for their involvement in recruiting and directing Jadhav’s activities. Others that Pakistan wants to access include intelligence operatives, bankers and passport officials.

The Pakistani source would not disclose the names of the 13 Indian officials that the government wants to quiz. He, however, said: “We want to reach Jadhav’s handlers.”

Besides, Pakistan has sought information about his Navy service file, bank record of his pension payment (if there is one as India had been claiming that he was a retired officer), and issuance of the passport in the name of Mubarak Hussain Patel.

Pakistani officials want to know how the passport in the name of Patel was issued and whether it was original or fake. “We have asked if the passport is fake (then) how he exited Mumbai and Delhi airports 18 times,” the source said.

Particulars of Jadhav’s properties in Mumbai, Pune and other parts of Maharashtra, which he had acquired with the alias Hussain Mubarak Patel had also been demanded, the source said.

The ICJ is currently hearing an Indian petition challenging Pakistan’s refusal to grant consular access to the spy. Memorial (by India) and counter-memorial (by Pakistan) have been submitted. The oral arguments are yet to commence as the court has allowed further written pleadings in the case by India till April 17, 2018, and a rejoinder by Pakistan till July 17. The world court had while ordering provisional measures in the case last May restrained the Pakistan government from executing him till it decides the case.

Full report at:



Row hits MQM-P over nomination of Senate candidates


February 06, 2018

KARACHI: A row over nomination of candidates for the March 3 Senate elections turned into an open rebellion against Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan head Dr Farooq Sattar as the party’s top decision-making forum removed his favoured candidate Kamran Tessori from the coordination committee and suspended him for six months on Monday night.

In a bid to demonstrate his control over party cadre, a beleaguered Dr Sattar along with a few leaders held a late-night press conference at his PIB Colony residence and said that he would not accept to be a powerless and ceremonial party head.

Earlier in the evening, a meeting of the coordination committee was convened at the MQM-P’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad, where Dr Sattar had an altercation with senior leader Amir Khan when the latter along with others refused to endorse the former’s proposal to field Mr Tessori as a candidate on one of the Senate general seats.

Sources said that majority of the participants seconded Mr Khan’s views upon which Dr Sattar boycotted the meeting and left for his PIB Colony residence in a huff.

He summoned all party members, excluding coordination committee members, to his PIB Colony home. “All elected representatives (Senators, MNAs, MPAs, Mayor, Chairman, Vice Chairman, Councillors) and the Tanzeemi members including all workers of MQM Pakistan are asked to immediately reach PIB at my house for an urgent meeting,” he tweeted.

A few party leaders, including Mr Tessori, and a number of workers reached Dr Sattar’s residence and chanted slogans in favour of Dr Sattar and against Mr Khan. However, he waited for hours to make public his future course of action.

Most MQM-P leaders stayed put at the Bahadurabad headquarters, where senior leader Dr Khalid Maqbool Sidd­iqui spoke to the media in the night and said the party had decided to nominate Nasreen Jalil (on first priority), followed by Dr Farogh Nasim, Aminul Haq, Shabbir Qaimi, Amir Khan and Mr Tessori for six Senate seats.

He said Dr Sattar wanted to “sacrifice” two of the top four candidates to accommodate Mr Tessori.

Dr Siddiqui said Mr Tessori had been removed from the coordination committee and his basic membership suspended for six months. He said Dr Sattar remained the convener of the MQM-P.

After Dr Siddiqui’s media talk, Dr Sattar emerged from his home and told reporters that it was unconstitutional to hold a party meeting without his permission. He said party workers were with him and he convened a workers’ convention at the KMC Ground in PIB Colony on Tuesday (today).

Dr Sattar has often been criticised for favouring Mr Tessori over seasoned party leaders and workers as he made the latter deputy convener, gave him a ticket to contest a by-election on a Sindh Assembly seat (PS-114) and now wants to nominate the jeweller-turned-politician for a Senate seat.

Dr Sattar took up the reins of the MQM after dissociating himself and the party from London-based founder Altaf Hussain following the latter’s Aug 22, 2016 incendiary speech.

Full report at:



Tensions with military have eased, says PM

February 06, 2018

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that after his predecessor Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification, tensions between the government and armed forces have eased.

In an interview to a panel of journalists from the Bloomberg news agency, Mr Abbasi said there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. He warned that little progress would be made until all sides entered into peace talks. In a report based on the interview, Bloomberg observed that with elections scheduled in less than six months, the government was “keen not to agitate the military”.

Mr Abbasi admitted that “there was a lot of friction institutionally that built up over the last year”.

The report, which describes the prime minister’s comments as “relatively candid”, included another quote from the interview, saying: “We have had some frank discussions — there’s much better understanding, it’s still an evolving relationship, there’s a consensus on most issues.”

Voicing scepticism over US President Donald Trump’s Afghan strategy, Mr Abbasi said that Islamabad was ready to help mediate talks with the Taliban because “at the end of the day the Afghans have to sit down and talk”.

“These are Afghan nationals who were arrested inside Pakistan, they were not involved in a terror attack on us otherwise we would have prosecuted them here, so we handed them back to the Afghans,” he said.

Mr Abbasi said that the handing over of over 27 Taliban and Haqqani network insurgents to Afg­hanistan in November was a “routine” prisoner transfer.” About the US decision to suspend security assistance to Pakistan, Mr Abbasi said that US military funding was already “very minimal” and Pakistan was still owed billions of dollars in reimbursements from the Coalition Support Fund.

Despite the aid suspension, Pakistan wasn’t considering closing US supply routes into landlocked Afghanistan, he added. Pakistan, he said, would also continue intelligence cooperation with the US. Mr Abbasi said that a growing relationship with China shouldn’t stop Pakistan’s cooperation with the US as these were not mutually excl­­usive relationships and nobody wanted it to be so.

He said that he believed the relationship with China was more of a longer term...“a deeper relationship, the US is probably more transactional”.

Mr Abbasi said that Pakistan had taken action against the charities linked to Hafiz Saeed, who was released from house arrest in Lahore in November.

Full report at:



Fazl joins protesters seeking justice for Naqeebullah

Rehmat Mehsud

FEBRUARY 6, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has said that he will pursue the Naqeebullah case to get justice for the Waziristan man who was killed in an alleged fake encounter in Karachi.

“Not only Naqeebullah but thousands of other innocent people have been killed the way the former was killed in a staged encounter, he told protesters who have been demonstrating for the last six days in the federal capital to get justice for Naqeebullah.

“I think FATA people now should be given their due rights. We will safeguard their interests and we will stand by them in all odds,” the JUI-F chief said.

The Waziristan man was killed in a fake encounter in Karachi on January 13 by a police team led by now suspended SSP Rao Anwar who is still at large despite Supreme Court directives to arrest him and produce him before the court of law.

Fazl said he would leave no stone unturned to get due rights for tribal masses.

He reassured the protesters of throwing his weight behind their legitimate demands, including the arrest of Rao Anwar and get FATA from improvised explosive devices cleared.

Earlier, Asfand Yar Wali Khan, chief of Awami National Party (ANP), along with his party leaders, including Mian Iftikhar Hussai and Bushra Gohar visited the ‘Naqeeb Shaheed’ camp to express solidarity with the demonstrators.

Addressing the gathering, Khan said that tribal people were the frontline force to defend the motherland but killing displaced persons the way Naqeebullah had been killed would lead to deprivations among them.

He also extend his party’s all-out support to get the absconder police officer Rao Anwar arrested, threatening that protest demonstrations would be held in all cities to ensure justice for the victim’s family.

The strength of the demonstrators camped in Islamabad is gaining momentum by each passing day, with leaders and heads of different political parties delivering speeches to express solidarity with the protesters.

Full report at:



No military solution to Afghan problem: Abbasi

February 06, 2018

ISLAMABAD - There’s no military solution to the long-running conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said, warning little progress would be made until all sides entered into peace talks.

Abbasi voiced skepticism over US President Donald Trump’s increase in troops to assist the Afghan security forces and said Islamabad was ready to help mediate talks with the Taliban, many of whom had been allegedly trained in Pakistan.

“At the end of the day the Afghans have to sit down and talk,” Abbasi, 59, said in an interview with Bloomberg at his home in Islamabad.

Relations between Pakistan and the US have nosedived in the past year. Pakistan has been repeatedly accused of not taking enough action against terror groups that strike its neighbors. In his first tweet of 2018, the U.S. president on Jan. 1 flagged a cut in military aid worth about $2 billion and said Pakistan gave “lies and deceit” in return for U.S. funding.

Abbasi hit back at charges that the nuclear-armed nation has been selective in its fight against terrorism. Following an announcement last week that 27 Taliban and Haqqani network insurgents had been handed over to Afghanistan in November in a what Abbasi described as a "routine" prisoner transfer, he said there was no evidence Pakistan was backing militants fighting across the border after a spate of violence left hundreds dead and wounded in Kabul last month.

“These are Afghan nationals who were arrested inside Pakistan, they were not involved in a terror attack on us otherwise we would have prosecuted them here, so we handed them back to the Afghans,” he said.

Successive US administrations have wrestled with the troubled Pakistan relationship. Along with providing passage into Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 attacks, Pakistan also helped capture and kill senior al-Qaeda leaders. Yet it is also the place where Osama bin Laden hid for years before being killed in a 2011 raid by U.S. Navy Seals.

Trump’s actions have provoked outcry from Pakistani officials, who have pointed out the thousands of civilians and servicemen who have died fighting terrorism within its borders. General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the head of the powerful army, said last month Pakistan felt “betrayed” and won’t seek a restoration of American aid. Islamabad has also drawn closer to China as it finances more than $50 billion in infrastructure projects across the South Asian nation.

US military funding was already “very minimal”, Abbasi said, noting Pakistan is still owed billions of dollars in reimbursements from the Coalition Support Fund. However, Pakistan wasn’t considering closing U.S. supply routes into landlocked Afghanistan.

Despite Trump’s stance, Abbasi said talks and intelligence cooperation is still ongoing and that a growing relationship with China shouldn’t stop that. “They are not mutually exclusive relationships and nobody wants it that way either,” Abbasi said. “China is more of a longer term, a deeper relationship, the US is probably more transactional.”

Action has been taken against United Nations Security Council sanctioned charities linked to Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, who was released from house arrest in Lahore in November -- provoking condemnation from the White House and India.

In the last two-to-three months Pakistan has “more or less complied” with sanctions against the Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation and Jamaat-ud Dawa, an alleged front for banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, Abbasi said. More action against Saeed is unlikely as “we have no charges against him,” he said.

Abbasi, who became premier in August after the Supreme Court barred former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from office following a corruption investigation, said tensions with the armed forces had eased since Sharif’s disqualification.

With national elections scheduled in less than six months, the government will be keen not to agitate the military , which has held power in Pakistan for almost half of its 70 years, has removed multiple elected leaders and effectively controls foreign policy.

Full report at:



Arab World


83 killed in ‘war on children’ across Mideast: UN

February 06, 2018

AMMAN - At least 83 children were killed in Middle East war zones in January, most of them in Syria, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said Monday, vowing their voices “will never be silenced”.

“They were killed in ongoing conflicts, suicide attacks or frozen to death as they fled active war zones,” said UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere.

“In the month of January alone, escalating violence in Iraq, Libya, the State of Palestine, Syria and Yemen has claimed the lives of at least 83 children ,” Cappelaere added in a statement.

Calling January a “dark (and) bloody month”, Cappelaere said it was “unacceptable that children continue being killed and injured every single day”.

“Children may have been silenced but their voices will continue to be heard... their voices will never be silenced,” he said. “We collectively continue failing to stop the war on children! We have no justification. We have no reason to accept a new normal.” The highest death toll was in Syria where 59 children were killed in violence as the war there enters its eighth year, said UNICEF.

In Yemen, wracked by conflict since March 2015 between Iran-backed Huthi rebels and a government supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, 16 children were killed , it said. “UNICEF is receiving reports of killed and injured children on a daily basis as fighting escalates across the country (Yemen),” it added.

In Libya’s second city Benghazi, a suicide attack killed three children while three others died while “playing near unexploded ordnance” and a fourth child was critically wounded.

A child was killed in a “booby-trapped” house in Iraq’s second city Mosul, ruled for three years by Islamic State group jihadists before being driven out by government forces in July after fierce battles.

And north of the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot dead a 16-year-old Palestinian boy.

Four children were among 16 Syrian refugees who “froze to death” in a snowstorm as they were fleeing their country to neighbouring Lebanon, said UNICEF, adding that more children suffered frost bite.

A Lebanese security official put the death toll at 17.

“Not hundreds, not thousands but millions more children in the Middle East and North Africa region have their childhood stolen, maimed for life, traumatised, arrested and detained, exploited, prevented from going to school and from getting the most essential health services; denied even the basic right to play,” said Cappelaere.



Free Syrian Army turns to Turkey for support in war against Assad

Feb 6, 2018

In mid-January, a delegation from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) traveled to Washington, seeking to convince the CIA to resume the military aid frozen under President Donald Trump. Otherwise, the group argued, Iran's influence would continue to grow in Syria. There was little they could do to counter that on their own, said Mustafa Sejari, an FSA commander.

The situation was urgent, Sejari told the Reuters news agency. "It is time to turn words into action. Until now on the ground it's the Iranian militias that are expanding without serious resistance," he said. "We asked for the resumption of aid and explained the dangers of leaving moderate FSA forces without support."

Events a week later showed what Sejari was talking about.

Around 35,000 FSA fighters moved into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, side-by-side with Turkish forces. The FSA was formed in July 2011 as a group of secular opponents to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and now, in January 2018, it is fighting Syrian Kurds— that is, the citizens of the very country whose democratic and republican nature the FSA once defended.

'The FSA is a smokescreen'

The decision to fight against citizens of one's own country is the result of the widely non-transparent, constantly changing alliances that characterized the varied Assad opponents at an early stage of the insurgency. The FSA has been on a political and most of all military odyssey in recent years — and at its end, the group's initial nature has been reversed.

"The Free Syrian Army practically doesn't exist," Kamal Sido, a Mideast expert at the human rights group Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) told Germany's Deutschlandfunk broadcaster. "The Free Syrian Army is a smokescreen hiding various names, and if you look at the names, at these groups' videos, you'll find they are radical Islamist, Jihadist groups."

Ideological division

A large part of the groups on the FSA ticket represent Islamist programs, some more moderate, others more radical. Some groups continue to pursue secular goals. Charles Lister of the Brookings Institution think tank lists almost 80 different factions that identify with the FSA brand. They often pursue completely different political goals, and their military action varies as well.

The term FSA suggests a unity that is a thing of the past.

The demise of the group's ideology follows on the heels of its military disintegration. The US, which stood behind the moderate opponents of Assad in the Syrian war, never saw the FSA as a fully reliable partner, and feared the aid they gave the group might fall into the hands of Jihadist fighters like the "Islamic State." That skepticism has carried over from the Obama to the Trump administration, which is reluctant to arm the FSA.

Seeking a strong partner

As a result, the FSA is searching for other allies, and has inched closer to often well-equipped Jihadist groups. They feel as though they have had little choice given the military pressure exerted by the Assad regime. And so, Washington's concerns of backing the wrong partner appears to tragically have come true: The lack of support contributed to creating the kind of group the US did not want to back in the first place. Some of these radical groups are now marching on the Kurds alongside Turkey.

But only some of the FSA units are fighting on Turkey's side. "The broadly delineated lines that existed for some years are now fuzzy; the days when the supporters of the Al Assad regime were on one side and FSA on the other have gone," wrote journalist Faisal al-Yafai in UAE newspaper The National.

War in the name of the Republic

The attack on Afrin highlights the consequences of that collapsed front. Jihadists and secular forces — all using the FSA brand — marched alongside the Turks. Many who support the revolution are in favor the idea of maintaining Syrian territorial integrity, an integrity they see threatened by the Kurds in Afrin, according al-Yafai.

The FSA fears the region in northwestern Syria might one day no longer be Syrian territory, but Kurdish territory, perhaps even part of an independent Kurdish state. That is a goal the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that rules the region around Afrin rejects, but Turkey and the FSA marching by its side are both wary.

There is one discrepancy the FSA can't elude: The people they attack in the name of Syrian territorial integrity are Syrian Kurds, members of the republic the FSA pretends to be defending. Political ideology and military practice contradict one another.

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Gov’t forces kill 6 Daesh militants in operation in northern Iraq

Feb 5, 2018

Iraqi security forces have killed six members of Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in an operation in the northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk as they are joined by allied fighters from Popular Mobilization Units to purge the entire country from the extremists.

Captain Ahmed al-Jubouri said federal police forces carried out a search operation on Monday morning to clear the central part of Hawijah, located some 230 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad, from possible Daesh remnants.

Jubouri added that security troopers came under small arms fire from some houses in the town during the operation, sparking heavy clashes that resulted in the killing of six militants.

He noted that government forces have so far managed to purge 75 percent of Hawijah from Daesh presence, stressing that efforts are underway to repatriate all local residents to their homes as soon as possible.

On December 9, 2017, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against the Daesh terrorist group in the Arab country.

“Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh,” Abadi told a conference in Baghdad then.

On October 5, Abadi said Iraqi armed forces had liberated Hawijah, driving Daesh Takfiris out of their last bastion in the oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk.

On July 10, Abadi formally declared victory over Daesh extremists in Mosul, which served as the terrorists’ main urban stronghold in the conflict-ridden Arab country.

In the run-up to Mosul's liberation, Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters had made sweeping gains against Daesh.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January 2017 after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19 last year.

Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.

Six Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters killed in militant ambush

Separately, six pro-government fighters from Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, have been killed when a group of unidentified gunmen attacked their post in the eastern province of Diyala.

A local source told Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network that the assailant carried out the ambush in Hafair area south of the mountainous Hamrin region on Monday evening, and then fled the area.

The source added that the bodies of slain Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters have been transported to the provincial capital city of Baqubah, and search operations are underway to find out the whereabouts of the attackers.

Foreign Daesh militants’ children to undergo DNA tests

Meanwhile, Iraqi security sources, requesting anonymity, said around 100 children of foreign Daesh terrorists will undergo complicated biological tests to find their family members before repatriation to their homelands.

Full report at:



Saudi says Yemen rebel ballistic missile shot down

February 06, 2018

RIYADH - Saudi air defences intercepted a ballistic missile fired at the kingdom by Yemen’s Huthi rebels on Monday, state media reported.

The attack was launched from Yemen’s northern governorate of Saada, a Huthi stronghold, and “intercepted” at 7:23 local time (0423 GMT), Colonel Turki al-Maliki told state news agency SPA.

Maliki, spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition supporting the government in Yemen, said the missile was headed toward the city of Khamis Mushait - about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of the border.

Riyadh had warned that “Iranian-manufactured ballistic weapons” threatened the kingdom’s security following an attack it said was intercepted near Riyadh airport in November.

Maliki on Monday accused the Huthis of “repeatedly targeting densely populated cities” and accused the kingdom’s regional rival Iran of delivering the weapons to the insurgents. The coalition has been blacklisted by the UN for the killing and maiming of children in air raids on Yemen.

The United States, which backs the Saudi campaign against the Huthis, has also accused Iran of being at the origin of the ballistic missiles, a charge denied by Tehran.

Full report at:



Reports Claim Baghdadi's Severe Illness

Feb 05, 2018

The Syrian Arabic-language al-Watan daily quoted militant-affiliated websites as claiming that Abu Bakr Baghdadi has been suffering from a severe illness, adding that Baghdadi's critical health condition has kept him away from media.

The daily further said that Baghdadi is suffering from advanced diabetes, adding that ISIL commanders are in row over who should be his successor.

The ISIL commanders have reportedly had an important meeting to appoint Baghdadi's successor but the meeting has failed due to wide rifts over the nationality of new ISIL leader.

The sources further said that the Iraqi commanders of the ISIL are asking for an Iraqi successor for Baghdadi but the Syrian and Saudi commanders of the terrorist group are showing strong opposition.

Well-informed Syrian sources reported last month that ISIL's Chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was living together with a number of his forces in a region in Eastern Deir Ezzur that was under the US forces' control.

The Arabic-language website of Sputnik quoted Deputy Head of the Syrian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Amar al-Assad as saying that a group of ISIL militants were deployed East of Khabour that was under the control of the US forces, adding that it seemed that Abu Bakr Baghdadi was living normally in Khabour region under the support of the US forces.

The Arabic Sputnik further said that the US was organizing alternative scenarios for undermining the Syrian Army achievements against terrorism, adding that Washington was investing on the remaining pockets of ISIL terrorists.

Washington has openly announced support for such terrorists, planning to use them in a newly-established militant force known as the Nation Army.

The ISIL terrorist group claimed in a statement last week that al-Baghdadi was to return to Iraq soon, a move seen by analysts as a last ditch effort to boost the morale of the remnants of the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

The Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat daily reported that the ISIL statement said that al-Baghdadi was alive and would return to Iraq in the near future.

"The Asharq al-Awsat report seems to be only a last bid in despair to boost the morale of the ISIL terrorists in the deserts of Eastern Syria who have been entrapped by the Syrian army and its allies," Political Analyst Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm said.

The report on the return of the ISIL ring leader to Iraq came as previous reports had declared that al-Baghdadi in the US custody at a base in Syria.

Official Representative of the International Human Rights Committee in the Middle East Haitham Abu Saeed confirmed last week reports that al-Baghdadi was alive and was in the custody of the US forces in Syria.

Abu Saeed announced in a statement that al-Baghdadi is at T2 Badiyeh (desert) base, adding that he was captured in a heliborne operation of the US commandoes on April 18, 2017.

He further said that a sum of 50 US commandoes were present in the hunting operation of ISIL chief.

"Reports on Baghdadi's capture by the US forces had been previously released, but some did not want to believe in our reliable information about Baghdadi's fate at that time," Abu Saeed added.

The Human Rights Committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties.

Meantime, a Syrian source told the Turkish-language Yeni Şafak daily on Sunday that al-Baghdadi was captured in Iraq by the US and was then brought to Syria’s al-Karamah region.

The source, who was previously a militant part of Jund al-Aqsa, told the daily that al-Baghdadi was first taken to the US base in Ra'as al-Ein and then to a US base in al-Hasaka-Rmeilan.

The source added that apart from Baghdadi, seven other top ISIL officials were a part of the group (captured by the US) and that one of them was an Iraqi national and the others were from outside of Syria and Iraq.

Spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry General Yahya Rasoul said earlier this month that al-Baghdadi was alive, adding that al-Baghdadi was hidden somewhere at Iraq-Syria border.

General Rasoul said that the Iraqi intelligence has found evidence proving that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is in a sleeper cell of the ISIL terrorists at Iraq-Syria border.

He further said that sleeper cells of the ISIL were present in desert regions at Iraq-Syria borders, adding that based on intelligence al-Baghdadi was moving from a cell to another in the region.

General Rasoul added that al-Baghdadi was hidden in a region between the Iraqi border town of al-Qa'em in Anbar and the Syrian town of Albu Kamal near the Euphrates River.

Also, one of the commanders of the Iraqi popular forces of Hashd al-Shaabi said in late November that Leader of the ISIL terrorist group is in the US forces' custody in an unknown venue.

The Arabic-language al-Sumeriyeh news quoted Jabar al-Ma'amouri as saying that ISIL Chief was in the US military forces' custody, adding that the US forces would never kill al-Baghdadi unless in a Hollywood-like scenario.

He stressed that people around the world rest assured that the US played a crucial role in the creation of the terrorist groups in last decades, and unfortunately some of the Arab nations embarked on providing financial support for such terrorist groups.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri), also known as Abu Dua, was born in 1971 in the city of Samarra in Iraq.

According to media reports, al-Baghdadi was brought up in a religious family. His relatives were famous preachers and specialists of the Arabic language, rhetoric and logic. He received a PhD in Islamic law from the University of Baghdad.

Al-Baghdadi was proclaimed the caliph of ISIL, a "caliphate" created on the territories ISIL managed to seize in Syria and Iraq in late June 2014.

Contradictory reports have surfaced the media on the fate of Al-Baghdad in recent years, while some claim that he has been killed in attacks in Iraq or Syria, others say that he is still alive and on the move.

Reports of al-Baghdadi’s death repeatedly appear in the world media. His death was reported in November 2014, April 2015, June, October and December 2016 and January 2017.

Arab media outlet reported early November that al-Baghdadi is still alive, adding that the terrorist group's ring leader has been sighted by eyewitnesses in one of the battlefields in Southeastern Deir Ezzur.

Full report at:



Syrian Army Makes Fresh Gains in Hama Province

Feb 05, 2018

The army men beat ISIL back from the villages of Ma'asran, Boyoudh Safaf, Abu al-Kheir and Modabeh in Northeastern Hama.

The army's engineering units started defusing bombs and landmines planted by the terrorists immediately after liberating the villages.

The Syrian Army troops stormed the strongholds of ISIL in Northeastern Hama and seized control over five villages on Sunday.

The army won back the villages of Abu al-Qosour, Talihan, Abu al-Kasour, Tal Talihan and Ma'asaran after heavy fighting with ISIL.

Full report at:



Report: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad Blacklisted in Mossad's Terror List

Feb 05, 2018

"In fact, the Mossad authorities tried to justify their decision by highlighting the recent threats made by President Assad against Israel’s sensitive and vital facilities in the event of a new Israeli attack on his country," the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida wrote on Sunday.

The Kuwaiti newspaper goes on to explain that, in general, the names on the list are those of individuals considered by Tel Aviv to have participated in so-called “terrorist” attacks, or those of leaders of resistance movements, which Israel considers to be terrorist groups. But if you put the name of a head of state on a blacklist, it has no antecedent in the entire common history of humanity.

According to the report, the Israeli regime considers "Bashar al-Assad as the leader of a terrorist group that threatens that regime's interests, especially after Assad was able to recover a large part of the Syrian territory with the help of Iran and Russia.

Full report at:



Houthi actions pose threat to international trade, says Arab Coalition

6 February 2018

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Monday accused the Houthis of “repeatedly targeting densely populated cities” and accused Iran of delivering the weapons to the militias.

Col. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesperson for the Arab coalition, said the Houthi militias fired a ballistic missile on Monday at 7 a.m. which was headed to Khamis Mushayt but it was intercepted by Saudi Arabia. No causalities or wounded were reported.

He also said a ballistic missile was fired at the Saudi capital last Tuesday, which was also intercepted.

“Every week many Houthi terrorists try to sneak across the Saudi border while heavily armed and camouflaged. These individuals are monitored then targeted and destroyed,” Al-Maliki said.

During a press conference, Al-Maliki said that “the coalition will continue to contribute and give out aid through all the ports in Yemen; sea, land and air. Yemeni islands will also receive humanitarian aid through the work of the Red Crescent.”

He said that the Houthis were now recruiting women, “which is unknown in our culture.”

Saudi Arabia had warned that “Iranian-manufactured ballistic weapons” threatened the Kingdom’s security following an attack intercepted near Riyadh airport in November.

Mohammed Al-Jaber, Saudi ambassador to Yemen, said that an agreement between the Saudi development fund and the Yemeni government was signed to finance four cranes in Yemeni ports as part of the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO).

Since the start of the war, 96 ballistic missiles have been fired at Saudi Arabia. All have been intercepted with no casualities.

The Houthis have not ceased their terrorist activities and a suspicious booby trapped boat was captured to the north of Solayaba.

The Iran-backed militias pose a threat to international trade in the Bab Al-Mandab strait, the coalition spokesperson said.

Maeen Abdul Malik, the Yemeni minister of public works, said: “Iran only supports the Houthis and not Yemen. Iran only brings destruction on Yemen, and we have no relations with it.”

Full report at:



83 killed in 'war on children' across Mideast in past month, says UNICEF

Feb 5, 2018

The UN children's agency (UNICEF) says at least 83 children were killed in Middle East war zones in January.

Geert Cappelaere , UNICEF's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, announced the figure in a statement in the Jordanian capital Amman on Monday.

"In the month of January alone, escalating violence in Iraq, Libya, the State of Palestine, Syria and Yemen has claimed the lives of at least 83 children," the statement read.

"They were killed in ongoing conflicts, suicide attacks or frozen to death as they fled active war zones,” it added.

According to UNICEF, the highest death toll was in Syria where 59 children were killed in violence. Syria has been grappling with foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.

In Yemen, 16 children were killed in the past month amid the ongoing Saudi invasion of the impoverished country which enters its third year in March. 

"UNICEF is receiving reports of killed and injured children on a daily basis as fighting escalates across the country (Yemen)," it noted

A new report says Saudi Arabia and its allies killed 68 children in Yemen in the course of three months last year.

According to a confidential document obtained by al-Jazeera news broadcaster, the Saudi-led military coalition also wounded 36 others in war-torn Yemen from July to September 2017.

Since March 2015, the Saudi regime, together with a coalition of its allies, has been heavily bombarding Yemen as part of a brutal campaign against its southern neighbor in an attempt to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.

Meanwhile, UNICEF said in its Monday statement that in Libya's eastern city Benghazi, an attack killed three children while three others died while "playing near unexploded ordnance" and a fourth child was critically wounded.

A child was killed in a "booby-trapped" house in Iraq's second city Mosul, seized for three years by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group before the militants were driven out by the Baghdad government forces and popular fighters in July following fierce battles, the agency said.

And north of the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces shot dead a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, it added.

UNICEF said at least four children were among 16 Syrian refugees who "froze to death" in a snowstorm as they were fleeing their country to neighboring Lebanon, adding that more children suffered frost bite.

A Lebanese security official put the death toll at 17.

Calling January a "dark (and) bloody month," the UN official said it was "unacceptable that children continue being killed and injured every single day."

"We collectively continue failing to stop the war on children! We have no justification. We have no reason to accept a new normal."

"Not hundreds, not thousands but millions more children in the Middle East and North Africa region have their childhood stolen, maimed for life, traumatized, arrested and detained, exploited, prevented from going to school and from getting the most essential health services; denied even the basic right to play," stressed Cappelaere.

He also vowed children’s voices "will never be silenced."

Full report at:




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